One of my favorite winter squashes is the Rouge Vif D’Etampes, a French heirloom variety, also called the Cinderella pumpkin. It gets its name from its bright red color and the French city of Etampes, where it originated. Its skin is tough and bright red-orange in color, and its flesh has a sweet, mild flavor and moist texture. Cinderella pumpkins are edible, but they are also ornamental. Every fall I include a Cinderella pumpkin as part of the autumn decorations on my front porch.
This winter squash was first introduced into the United States in the 19th century and came to be called the Cinderella pumpkin because it resembles the shape of Cinderella’s carriage in the 1950 Disney cartoon.
Growing as large as 35 pounds, the Rouge Vid D’Etamopes has a round shape and flattened blossom and stem ends. Its rind has deep ribs, giving it a scalloped appearance; and as it ripens, it turns from yellow to bright red-orange. This winter squash spends 95 days on the vine and is then cured for another 10 to 14 days, which helps its skin harden.
The best methods for cooking Cinderella pumpkins are roasting, baking, and steaming. Their mild, sweet flavor and creamy texture make them ideal candidates for baked goods, such as pies, cookies, muffins, and breads; and chefs often use the Cinderella pumpkin to make ice cream and pumpkin butter. The flesh of this squash can be puréed and used in soups, stews, or casseroles.
I have been attempting to bake risotto inside a Cinderella Pumpkin for a few years now. Through numerous trials and errors, I finally worked out all the kinks. It is my pleasure to share this recipe with you. My family gave it rave reviews. If you come across a Rouge Vif D’Etampes before the season is over, pick one up and give this recipe a try. The secret to making this recipe is using a small pumpkin. If you use a larger one, the pumpkin won’t cook all the way through.
If you don’t want to attempt baking risotto in a pumpkin but want to roast your Rouge Vif D’Etampes, follow these steps:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a sharp knife, cut the pumpkin into wedges. Using a spoon, remove the seeds and pulp. Lightly brush the flesh with olive oil and season to taste with salt. Place wedges on a baking sheet and roast for 40 minutes, or until the flesh can be easily pierced with a knife.
Cinderella Pumpkin with Risotto and Gruyere Cheese Baked and Served in the Shell Serves 6 to 8
To prepare the pumpkin:
1 Rouge Vif D’Etamps (Cinderella Pumpkin), about 6 pounds
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using a large sharp knife, cut out the top of the pumpkin, creating a lid about 4 inches in diameter. Set the lid aside. Using a large metal spoon, scoop out any seeds and strings. Rub the inside of the pumpkin and bottom of the lid with 1 tablespoon room-temperature butter. Season the inside with salt and pepper to taste. Place the pumpkin, cut side up, in a deep baking dish or pan attractive enough to use for serving.
For the risotto:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 cup leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced 1 ½ cups Arborio rice 1 cup canned chicken broth or chicken stock 1 cup dry white wine 6 sage leaves, slivered 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese 2 cups canned chicken broth or chicken stock
In a large heavy skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add leek and sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add Arborio rice and stir until the grains are coated with butter, about 1 minute. As liquid cooks down, add ½ cup chicken broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until Arborio rice absorbs all the liquid. Add the other ½ cup chicken broth and continue cooking and stirring until rice has absorbed all the liquid. Follow this same process with the white wine, adding ½ cup at a time, until all liquid has been absorbed. Reduce the heat to low, stirring frequently. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the mixture at a gentle boil.
When Arborio is almost tender (after about 15 minutes of cooking), add sage and gruyere cheese and stir to combine. Transfer the risotto mixture to the pumpkin. Add additional 2 cups chicken broth to the pumpkin, or enough broth to come within 1 inch of the pumpkin’s rim. Stir gently, mixing chicken broth with risotto, taking care not to puncture the pumpkin. Place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of pumpkin and then place the lid on top of the foil.
Bake until the pumpkin begins to soften and brown on the outside and the stock bubbles on the inside, about 1 ½ to 2 hours. Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven. Using a long-handled spoon, gently scrape the flesh from the bottom and sides of the pumpkin into the risotto, again being careful not to puncture the sides of the pumpkin. Mix well. Serve in the shell.
Shopping for Winter Squash: Buy rock-hard squash. When you press hard on squash, it should not give to pressure. Its skin should be matte, not shiny. Select squash with firm, full, cork-like stems. Avoid specimens that have skinny or green stems. Do not buy squash with soft spots or bruises. You will know your Cinderella pumpkin is ripe once its skin becomes thick and dense and it is bright red-orange in color.
Storing Cinderella Pumpkins: When stored in a cool, dry place, away from sunlight, Cinderella pumpkins will keep up to 6 months. Once you cut into your pumpkin, it will keep up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Cooked Cinderella pumpkin will keep 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Carol Ann Kates is the author of Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
Copyright 2023 All Rights Reserved Carol Ann Kates