Monday, November 28, 2016

One (Big) Squash + Two Pie Recipes = Yum!

It just so happened that Thanksgiving this year coincided with the cooking of a giant—I am not exaggerating, it was a more-than-twenty-pounder prior to slaughter—Musquée de Provence squash. Though I fully intended to bake it at some point, it provided a lovely front porch decoration during Halloween with its bronzed, almost metallic-looking sheen, dramatic striated ribs and sculptured stem.

I'm a huge fan of buying whole squash, whether Hubbard or Sibley or the Northwest's own Lower Salmon River variety. And size is no deterrent (see above). All I needed was a sharp chef's knife and a sturdy cutting board—remember, these monsters are hollow inside, so you can insert the knife at the stem, push it all the way through the bottom, then with steady pressure push the knife down. I generally slice them into halves to clean them, then section them for roasting. (In a 400-degree oven the slices soften like butter, usually within an hour.)

The unroasted flesh of Cucurbita moschata (the Latin name of this squash; also called "Potiron Bronze de Montlhery"…ooh la la!) is quite sweet, and it has a lighter texture than its cousins the acorn and butternut squashes, but with a more intense flavor than either of those, and a gorgeous, red-orange color. Roasted, it maintains its sweetness and its color, which works well with a lime-inflected soup and is perfectly suited for desserts like pie or cheesecake.

I used about a quarter of the roasted squash for a soup, then froze the rest in three zip-lock freezer bags, knowing I'd pull out two of them for pies at Thanksgiving. I'd cobbled together a recipe from researching squash pies in books and online, but found that most squash pie recipes call for puréed pumpkin or butternut. The Musquée's flesh is much more moist, so I knew I needed to cut back on any added liquid.

The second recipe I tried was from a friend who is a professional baker here in Portland, a squash pie that came from a French chef she'd worked with who hated American food. "Hilariously enough," she said, "it's a variation on the recipe from the Libby's can!"

The recipes were almost identical, with only a couple of minor variations, and for the Musquée squash I think the recipe below works well. I can't wait to try it on other kinds of squash—helloooo Lower Salmon River, I'm talkin' to you—and taste the differences between them. And I'm pretty darn sure my family won't mind me using them as testers in the process.

Squash (Pumpkin) Pie

For the crust:
1 unbaked pie crust in a 9" pie pan (recipe here)
Egg white

For the filling:
3 c. roasted Musquée de Provence squash
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. ginger
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. heavy cream or whole milk

Preheat oven to 350°.

Purée squash in food processor until smooth. Pour into large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Brush the bottom of the crust with a thin layer of egg white (I use my hands for this so I can feel if there are dry spots.) Pour squash mixture into the crust. Bake 1 hour. Test for doneness by inserting a sharp knife. If it doesn't come out clean, reduce heat to 300° and continue baking until set.

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