Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pumpkin Pie (From Real Pumpkins!)

Gosh, time flies! I guess it's been a while since I posted anything - I was so busy doing Thanksgiving that I didn't have time to write about it. It's one of my favorite holidays, because it's entirely about enjoying food, relaxing and expressing gratitude for what you have. I had a wonderful time cooking for my mom, my sister, my husband's parents, and a few friends. Probably my greatest triumph this Thanksgiving was the pumpkin pie - it was truly exceptional, the best one I've ever made.

During the last few weeks of the farmers' markets in late October and early November, I bought a fabulous array of heirloom pumpkins. Here's an adorable family photo!


Clockwise from the bottom left, we have:
Jarrahdale Blue - a very standard type of winter squash in Australia (correct me if I'm wrong, Peta) and an incredibly long keeper. It looks more blue in person, really.
Black Futsu - another very long keeper, said to have a wonderful chestnut flavor. The farmer said it would keep until early spring, and its skin should turn to a warm buckskin color.
Turk's Turban - cute and funky, but reputed to be very dry and maybe not so flavorful. We'll find out!
Kabocha - I usually don't try to grow squash because the squash bugs always get it, but this squash simply grew out of our compost pile and remained amazingly bug-free. The vines were 20 feet long and twined up into our plum tree to where it looked like a pumpkin tree!
Naples Long - the favored baking pumpkin in Italy, according to Eli at Chispas Farm. Gotta love the nametag! This is the one I used for my pie.
And in the middle, Galeux d'Eysines - a French heirloom which is not a very long keeper (I'll have to use it by Christmas) but should be incredibly sweet and flavorful. People say the warts are where the sugar is popping out of the skin.


Most recipes use canned pumpkin, which is nice because the moisture content is more consistent from can to can. But that's no fun, because there are so many gorgeous, flavorful pumpkins out there! The day before Thanksgiving, I cut the 11-pound Naples Long in half (crosswise, because its full length wouldn't fit in my oven!) and baked it for about an hour and a half at 350F. It came out with the most amazing texture, not exactly stringy - the flesh looked and felt kind of like the little juice sacs that make up a grapefruit segment.


I used a technique from Cook's Illustrated for the custard, which involves cooking the pumpkin to concentrate the flavor and reduce the liquid. And I replaced the cream/evaporated milk and two egg yolks with eggnog - my new favorite eggnog is Organic Valley (NOT Horizon Organic, which is terrible). The custard came out with a perfect silky texture and didn't crack at all!

1 pre-made pie crust
1 cup eggnog (or 2 egg yolks + cream or evaporated milk to make 1 cup)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups cooked pumpkin, pureed
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400F. Lay the pie crust in the pan and crimp edges. Cover with foil and place pie weights or an identical pie pan inside to keep it from bubbling up. Bake 15 minutes, remove weights and foil, and bake 5 minutes more, until golden brown and crisp.

Whisk eggnog, eggs and vanilla together in a bowl. Combine the pumpkin, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and sugar in a saucepan. I used my awesome Cuisinart hand blender (thanks Ally and Ben!) to puree it all together. Bring the pumpkin mixture to a slow simmer and cook until it resembles thick applesauce, about 20 minutes. Stir frequently, but be careful, because it will burn you badly if it splatters on your hand! Turn off the heat and whisk in the eggnog mixture.

Pour custard into the baked pie crust, and place in the oven at 400F for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 300F. Continue baking 20-35 minutes more, until the center reads 175F on an instant-read thermometer. If you don't have one, the other way to determine whether it's done is to shake the pan gently, and there should be an area in the center about the size of a quarter that jiggles - if the liquidy area is any bigger than a 50-cent piece, leave it in another 5-10 minutes. If you wait until it is solid all the way to the center, the top of the custard will crack as it cools.

Allow the pie to cool at least 2-3 hours so the custard is fully set. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream.

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