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 and was adapted from Las Ramblas.
This appetizer is a rich, flavorful treat with the creamy cheese perfectly complemented by the sweetness of the pumpkin meat. Adding shrimp adds a nice texture and crunch to the dish. Small shrimp are preferred as they are easier to eat with a spoon. However, if small shrimp cannot be found, simple use regular size shrimp and cut into smaller pieces when you sautee. For vegetarians, the shrimp can be substituted with crimini or other mushrooms of your choice.
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.
Mini Pumpkins with Shrimp
- 4 mini pumpkins (Jack-Be-Little), about 3-4″ in diameter
- 4 tsp. brown sugar, rounded
- 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. flour
- 1/2 small onion
- 1 pinch ground cloves
- 1 dash nutmeg
- 1/2 cup Spanish Tetilla or Fontina Val d’Aosta cheese, diced
- 16 small shrimp (51/60 count), or larger shrimp cut into smaller pieces
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup heavy cream, warm
- 1 Tbsp. chives, finely chopped, to garnish
- 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 (your’re making a béchamel sauce). Bring to a simmer and cook until sauce has thickened. Add the half onion, ground cloves and nutmeg and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Strain and discard onion. Return sauce to pan, add diced cheese and cook on low heat until the cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper.
- Melt 1 1/2 tablespoons butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Place the shrimp in the pan and season with kosher salt and 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 chives.
- 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.