Welcome fall with a savory stuffed pumpkin dish that boasts bold flavors and upland bird meat
Though our reasons why may vary, we all can likely agree fall is the best season. It’s the cooler weather, for starters, that allows us to run the dogs as we count the days until our favorite upland opener.
Autumn may not mean flannel or PSLs to you—I found out a couple of weeks ago that means “pumpkin spice lattes”—but the season should elicit a sense of child-like excitement. To coincide with that enthusiasm, I very much enjoy the aromas of the season circulating about my kitchen and house. Nothing does that better than roasting a stuffed pumpkin.
There are several steps to this one, but overall it’s very simple and you can use any upland bird, though I used pheasant. You will need a grinder. MEAT! has a little 500-watt powerhouse for just north of $100 or you can get it for less if you subscribe to its email list.
I also used a Cinderella pumpkin, but if using another variety, you may wish to Google to see how it works in terms of flavor if roasting.
Don’t like pumpkin? Please know: This recipe isn’t sweet, so it will taste more like squash than pumpkin pie. Still don’t like pumpkin or squash? You can skip the pumpkin stuffing and roasting and just make the vegetable, pear, sausage, and rice mix, which is very good. And if the amount below seems like too much, grab a 5-pound pumpkin and cut ingredients in half.
Lastly, keep a close eye on the roasting time necessary for your pumpkin. I read a recipe that said 2 hours for roasting. Mine was done after 40 minutes. If your pumpkin collapses from roasting too long, worry not—you can still eat and it’ll taste great. You just won’t have that presentation and may have to serve that slightly sloppy mess in bowls.
Pheasant Sausage Stuffed PumpkinJack Hennessy
- Meat Grinder
- 10 pound pumpkin carved to remove top, pulp and seeds removed
- 2 carrots diced
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 Bartlett pear diced
- 1 cup red rice
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 8 oz baby portobello mushrooms sliced
- ¼ cup brandy
- 1 Tbsp salted butter
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Parmesan freshly grated or shredded
- 1 lb pheasant or other upland bird ground
- 1 lb pork shoulder ground
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper ground
- 1 tsp sage freshly minced
- 2 tsp garlic freshly minced
- ½ Tbsp fennel seeds
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- Grind very cold (perhaps even partially frozen) pork shoulder and upland bird for a 50/50 mix. Add all spices listed under sausage recipe and mix thoroughly. Keep in fridge until ready to cook.
- Prep vegetables. Clean and slice mushrooms.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- To prep pumpkin, carve and remove top along with pulp and seeds. Lightly salt inside and also oil with olive oil. Put in fridge until ready to stuff.
- To sauté vegetables, add a thin layer of olive oil to a large (preferably cast iron) skillet at medium heat and add diced onion. Lightly salt and pepper. Add diced carrots and stir frequently. Once onions start to brown and carrots start to soften, add diced pair. Lightly salt and pepper again. Once pair is slightly softened, deglaze with ¼ cup of brandy, turn heat on high and stir frequently. Once the brandy is mostly absorbed, turn off the heat and remove vegetables and pear.
- Heat the same skillet on medium and add sausage mix. Brown and cook thoroughly. Once fully cooked, drain liquids, remove sausage, and set aside.
- To cook red rice, follow instructions on bag. It should be: 1 cup rice, 2 cups water but I recommend chicken stock. Rinse rice, then bring rice and stock to a boil in a covered medium saucepan. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 30-45 minutes until rice cracks open and is tender but also has texture. Turn off heat and uncover when done.
- Once vegetables, pear, and sausage are cooked, in the same skillet heated on medium add mushrooms. Add salted butter, lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper, and brown mushrooms. Once slightly soft, remove and add to large mixing bowl.
- In same large mixing bowl, add vegetables, pear, red rice, and sausage. Thoroughly mix and add to pumpkin.
- Add stuffed pumpkin (with top on) to oven-safe baking dish and place in oven.
- Check after half hour. Pumpkin is done when fork tender from the outside. If close, remove top and top with freshly shredded or grated parmesan cheese and cook for 10 minutes more. If not close, check every 10 minutes until close. Follow the same step of removing top and adding cheese when close.
- When pumpkin is done roasting, remove and let cool for 10 minutes prior to carving and serving.
Jack Hennessy grew up in the South Suburbs of Chicago and didn't start hunting until he attended graduate school in Spokane, Washington, at the age of 26. Hennessy began work in professional kitchens in high school but didn't start writing wild game recipes until he joined the Spokesman-Review in 2014. Since then, his recipes have appeared with Petersen's Hunting, Backcountry Journal, Gun Dog Magazine, among many others. He now lives with his wife, daughter, and Wirehaired Vizsla, Dudley, in Wichita, Kansas.