Autumn...my favorite season began this weekend! Maybe growing up on Long Island was influential with this personal love affair I have been enjoying, but in my very humble opinion, this is the richest season...the most magical season...and the most colorful season. It is the time when the world outside turns crisp and cool, the leaves on the trees turn scarlet, gold and rust, the fun holidays and festivals tumble into one another, and it is my favorite time for the best food and wine pairings!
In the little town of Red Bank, NJ yesterday, an annual Guinness and oyster festival took over the streets. We could hear the music from our back porch. It was a beautiful, sun shiney day, which in my world (lupus...no direct sunlight for any length of time), meant I would be indoors. No problem...thanks to the Lusty Lobster, we began our festival with oysters and clams on the half shell.
We also enjoyed Guinness and Vinho Verde on the back porch, out of the sunshine, but first, we cooked dinner. Roasting a ham and because this is also the season of gigantic cruciferous vegetables, throwing together a quick cauliflower, broccoli casserole in cheddar cheese sauce. We, and here I use the royal concept of "we", baked off one of the pumpkins from our yard.
So that "we", meaning Bruce, my own personal chef and brilliant husband, could make a pumpkin pie. Seriously, there is no recipe this man cannot tackle!
The pie was delicious...really, really delicious! What we learned about making a pumpkin pie from scratch is that if you bake or roast the pumkin meat instead of boiling it, you get a sweeter, more caramelized flavor. And when life and Mother Nature give you lots of pumpkins,(please read about our bounty of magical pumpkins here, and here) you find lots of new pumpkin themed recipes. So, when roasting a pumpkin, cut it in half and scoop out the guts and seeds. It is just easier to scoop out the meat afterward if you do this step first. Save the seeds and toast them in the oven...but you knew that.
From one pumpkin, you get a lot of, hmmm, what do you call it, flesh, meat, um, pumpkin puree, yep that sounds better. We got enough filling for two pies, a small souffle dish without crust that our poor baby, the kid in the middle, who had five ( I know...but she actually had 6) wisdom teeth pulled this week, managed to eat. In addition, there are two very large containers of pumpkin puree in the fridge right now, so there will probably be more pumkin themed dishes coming out of our kitchen...maybe some pumpkin ravioli, or gnocchi, or..?
As usual, I was dazzled...yeah, awe-struck by the unending culinary feast that came out of our kitchen this weekend. Did I miss going to the festival in town? Not so much!
The recipe that we used for the pumpkin pie filling, with a bit of tweaking, came from Cook's Illustrated. Which is:
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (we used fresh)
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsps ground ginger, 2 tsps, cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cloves and 1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
4 large eggs
We doubled the recipe for the two pies and the extra souffle.
While you are partially baking your pie crust, whisk in a large bowl, the cream, milk and eggs. Combine the pumpkin puree, sugar and spices in a heavy bottomed pan, and bring to a simmer. Stirring constantly, continue simmering the mixture until smooth and glossy, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the liquid mixture to the pumkin puree whisking together to incorporate. Pour the mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps or stringy bits from the pumpkin and then return to the sauce pan and whisk through again. Pour the mixture into your baked pie shell and set in preheated oven (400 degrees). bake for 10 minutes...at this point, if you have left over filling and the pie has settled, you can add more filling. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for another 25 to 35 minutes until edges are set and an internal thermometer reads 175 degrees. Let pie cool for a few hours before eating.
And here is my most important tip...don't forget to buy heavy cream...put it in your mixer...mix....add some super fine or powdered sugar and mix again...add 1/2 tsp of vanilla and mix one more time. Dollop on top of pie. If you own a mixer, there is just no good reason not to make fresh whipped cream. If you want people to love you, show up anywhere with a bowl of whipped cream...it is almost like magic!
Autumn... pumpkins, apples, cabbages, October fests (yes, I know that is really in September), Halloween, Hickory Stick Frolic (if you grew up in Freeport), Giant mums, pomegranates, Thanksgiving, turkeys, and pies, pies, pies!!