Monday, October 29, 2007

Pumpkin Tricks and Treats for the Cook

It's not quite as bad as Thanksgiving, when a turkey has to get a presidential pardon to protect him or her from the dinner table, but it does seem to be a trend of cooks preparing pumpkin (or other winter squash) for starter, main course and/or dessert at Halloween.

Blog Appetit yields it's love of orange winter squash to no one and I have very happily served pumpkin dishes for dinner at Halloween since I graduated college and from a hot plate to a real stove.

Here is a kind of pumpkin boot camp, complete with recipes to help you prepare for your Halloween feast.

Here's some tips for cooking with pumpkin:
  • Don't choose a big field or jack-o-lantern pumpkin for cooking, the flesh is too watery. See the post on the first link above for what to buy and how to choose.
  • If I am starting with cooked pumpkin, I prefer to bake my pumpkin and then scoop the flesh away from the peel. It concentrates the squash's flavor and makes peeling it a much easier job.

  • If you need or chose to use canned pumpkin puree, start with the kind that is NOT labled pumpkin pie filling. That type is already spiced to the manufacturer's taste not yours.

  • Be careful whacking into any hard winter squash with a sharp object. Make sure the squash is stablized on your cutting board (slice a bit from the bottom or side if need to be to help it stay in place) and make sure you are focused and your cutting board is placed on a solid enough surface. I use my heaviest Chinese cleaver, but a strong, full-size chef's knife would work well. Focus on where you want to cleave the squash, take a few practice swings, raise your arm up high, check your fingers and children are safe and then, bam! If the knife doesn't go all the way through, don't worry. With the knife still "engaged" in the body of the squash, whack the knife and pumpkin down on the cutting board a time or two and the vegetable should split cleanly in half. More prep info is in that first link.
I have an idea for mac and cheese with winter squash, but I don't have the kinks worked out yet. I'll post after I test it. (Update 9.30.12 - it took awhile but here it is!)
Please add your own pumpkin tips, tricks, treats and links in the comments below.


Julia said...

I've been cooking a lot with pumpkin and butternut squash (one of my favourites) lately:

FJKramer said...

thanks for stopping by
I checked out your blog and those pumpkin recipes do look good

Linda said...

Nice cooking turkey tips. I've never thought about pumpkin...