Much of this meal can be made a day in advance: Complete the first baking of the pumpkin and the beef-and-rice mixture, then cover and refrigerate. The baked pumpkin can accompany the beef and rice as a side dish.
- 1 small to medium pumpkin (the size of a regular soccer ball)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup finely chopped button mushrooms (may include stems)
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds lean ground beef
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
- 1 10 3/4-ounce can low-fat cream of mushroom soup (may substitute cream of chicken soup), such as Campbell's
- 1 8-ounce can water chestnut slices, drained and diced
- 1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a sturdy rimmed baking sheet.
Cut off the top of the pumpkin (as you would if you were carving a jack-o'-lantern), to be used later as a lid, and set aside. Discard the pumpkin pulp and seeds, making a clean, hollow space inside. Place the pumpkin on the baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Add the meat and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for several minutes, stirring to break up any clumps of beef, until no pink remains. Add the soy sauce, brown sugar and soup, stirring to combine. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the water chestnuts and cooked rice. Transfer the mixture to the pumpkin; cover the top with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 minutes or until the mixture inside has heated through and the pumpkin flesh is tender when pierced with a fork. Transfer to a serving platter; decorate the outside of the pumpkin with a jack-o'-lantern face and serve warm.
From Washington Post Book World contributing editor Evelyn Small.
Tested by Evelyn Small.
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