The first time I had these delicious baby pumpkins was at a friend’s restaurant in New York City. Located in Greenwich Village, Las Ramblas is a great, if tiny, tapas restaurant full of bright, bold flavors. These mini pumpkins are a seasonal dish they serve during the autumn months when the pumpkins can be easily found and are still fresh. The recipe was also featured in NYTimes many years ago.
It is a rich, flavorful appetizer with the creamy cheese perfectly complemented by the sweetness of the pumpkin meat. The shrimp also adds a nice texture to the dish, although for vegetarians the shrimp can be substituted with crimini mushrooms. These baby pumpkins do take time to prepare and cook, but they are surprisingly easy to make. Plan on 2 hours from start to finish.
Baby Pumpkins With Shrimp
- 4 mini pumpkins, about 3-4″ in diameter
- 4 tsp. brown sugar, rounded
- 1 1/2 + 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
- 1/2 small onion, peeled and stuck with 6 whole cloves
- 1/2 cup Spanish Tetilla or Fontina Val d’Aosta, diced
- 16 small shrimp (51/60 count), peeled and deveined
- Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
- 1 cup heavy cream, warm
- 2 tsp. green onions, green parts only, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Using a sharp knife, cut the tops off the pumpkins, leaving about an inch of pumpkin around stem. With a spoon, scoop out the strings and seeds. Put 1 rounded teaspoon brown sugar in each pumpkin, restore lids and place pumpkins in a baking dish, filled with 1/2 inch of water. Place in oven and bake until tender, about 1 hour.
- Melt 1 1/2 tablespoon butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour to make a roux, then add warm cream, whisking briskly (a béchamel). Bring to a simmer and cook until sauce has thickened. Add the half onion studded with cloves and simmer gently 10 minutes. Strain and discard onion. Return sauce to pan, add diced cheese and cook gently until it melts. Season with salt and white pepper.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Place the shrimp in the pan and season with kosher salt and white pepper. Sauté shrimp until just cooked through (pink and opaque), about 2 minutes.
- When pumpkins are done, remove from oven and add sauteed shrimp to each. Next, add the melted cheese, and garnish with finely chopped scallions.
- If not serving immediately, wait to garnish. Place the lids back on and warm the pumpkins in the oven for 10 minutes before plating. Remove the lids and garnish to serve.