09 November, 2009

Phoenix, rising from the pumpkins.

"Pumpkin pie, if rightly made, is a thing of beauty and a joy - while it lasts.....Pies that cut a little less firm than a pine board, and those that run round your plate are alike to be avoided. Two inches deep is better than the thin plasters one sometimes sees, that look for all the world like pumpkin flap-jacks. The expressive phrase, 'too thin', must have come from these lean parodies on pumpkin pie. With pastry light, tender, and not too rich, and a generous filling of smooth spiced sweetness - a little 'trembly' as to consistency, and delicately brown on top - a perfect pumpkin pie, eaten before the life has gone out of it, is one of the real additions made by American cookery to the good things of the world." --The House Mother
I found this quote while trawling online in an attempt to make myself feel better: I made pumpkin pie this weekend, and it Really Did Not Go Over Well. Imagine children saying no to dessert. Imagine whole, starving armies turning their backs...okay, well that part didn't happen, but it kind of felt like it did. Who refuses pumpkin pie? Having lived so long outside of the United States, my Thanksgiving habits have admittedly withered somewhat: I hadn't actually made any since leaving the US. Faced with small mountain of different types of pumpkin and squash, however, I decided I would make the Turkey Day standard I'd always loved as a child. I dug up my old starter red and white plaid-covered Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, figuring I would go for the tried and true. The thing is, pumpkin doesn't come thick, pureed and in cans here, I don't keep evaporated milk on hand, and I forgot that pumpkin pie needs a day in the fridge for the spices and texture to "take"...so I fed it to them warm from the oven. It was mushy, and really Wasn't Sweet Enough. Eyes were averted. The next day, I assured everyone that it was vastly improved and actually not bad. No one was convinced, however, and by myself, I have been working on it daily, slice by spicy slice. (I added fresh ground cardamom. They just don't know what they're missing.)

I'm not giving up. I just need to find a good pie recipe for freshly roasted pumpkin. You wouldn't happen to know one, would you? There's an awful lot of pumpkin outside...

I'll share a pumpkin/squash recipe that is a guaranteed autumn hit--I swear!--as easy to prepare as it is to devour. It is a recipe I've taken and adapted from an old issue of Food and Wine magazine, dating somewhere back in the dimly remembered eighties. It is another soup, but unlike the butternut squash soup I posted about earlier, it isn't pureed to a velvety smoothness. Instead this one is speckled with ham and julienned sage and its full flavor is heightened by cooked chunks of tart apple. This the kind of soup you offer to people who think they don't like pumpkin soup. Don't bother if they also don't like sage; it's a lost cause at that point, and they may want to consider professional help. If you live somewhere where you can get pumpkin in a can, then you can very successfully substitute that.

When you know you're going to be puttering around the house a bit, split a pumpkin or squash, remove the seeds and fiber with a spoon, place the halves facedown on a baking paper- or foil-covered large roasting pan (better than a baking sheet, actually, because it will retain whatever liquid seeps forth) and bake at 180C-200C for at least an hour, or an hour and a half. Go do other stuff. Once it is really nice and tender--not firm (the skin will look shiny and papery and maybe even a bit collapsed), scoop the flesh out with a spoon and mash it up (or puree) so that there are no more fibers. And ta-da. Put any extra pumpkin in the fridge for whatever later comes to mind; your soup's more than halfway there.

Soupe au Potiron et Sauge/Pumpkin Soup with Sage

Serves 4

1 tablespoon butter
2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1/2 tart apple (like Granny Smith), peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch dice
2 cups of pumpkin or squash puree, roasted and mashed, or from a can
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh, thinly sliced sage, or 1 tablespoon dried (but not stale and odorless!)
1 bay leaf
3 1/2 cups water
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
500 g ham, finely chopped into 1/4 inch dice

Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery and apple and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until the onion is translucent. This should take about 10 minutes. Then stir in all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the ham and simmer, half-covered, for 15 minutes. Add the ham and simmer uncovered another 5 minutes, until the carrots are nicely tender. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve soon and hot to wild, sustained applause. But don't forget to remove that bay leaf first.


  1. Next time this happens, give me a ring. Same thing happens here! Oh I do love me some pumpkin pie....sigh

  2. Girl after my own heart! This pie just keeps getting better. I've got to brainwash the kids somehow...


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