by Pat Gulley
Yes, it’s that time of the year when two big cooking (and for some much more) events are upon us. And the newspapers, magazines, blogs and Tweets are full of Quick and Easy and much faster ways to make ‘traditional’ foods. Uh huh! Right. Substituting cheese pie for Cheese Cake, to me, has always been a crime. Sure it can be tasty, but NOT when you are expecting real cheese cake and instead you get premade graham cracker crust and cool whip topping. Oh pie made with canned pumpkin in a pie and that ghastly (to me, to me) of all stuff, evaporated milk.
So let’s hear it for hard recipes, ones that takes a great deal of time and can wear you down to the bone just getting the ingredients prepared. Okay, I’m not going to go off on a tangent and ask you to go out and shoot your own turkey or cure your own ham—though there is the possibility that some of you do that—but I will recommend a fresh turkey over frozen any day. No, no comments on the bird. I’d rather stick with the important part of the menu—Dessert!!!
Okay, so I’ve said enough about cheese cake. Let’s just talk about that old faithful, Pumpkin Pie, which can be reinterpreted with sweet potatoes and a multitude of different squashes.
First let me say this. Remember in the movie Julie and Julia when Julia was trying to get her cookbook published by a New York publisher, and even though all the men were enthusiastic about it, it was still suggested that she get some recipes in there that called for fast box mixes and canned goods? Remember that? They implied that the American Woman could not cope with anything else? Remember that? In the movie and the book, it made me boiling mad. Anyway, that’s what I now think of when a recipe says ‘canned pumpkin’. What’s so hard about using fresh pumpkin? Sure it’s time consuming, so what? Aren’t there a ton of them around after Halloween all going to waste? Sure some get totally ruined by all the candle wax and sitting out in the elements for weeks, but some don’t and if you are not into wasting food, here’s a good way not to. All you have to do is slice the pumpkin up, cut off bad parts, do not peel, and boil until soft in a large pot. Remove softened pieces with a slotted spoon to a colander, and keep adding water to pot for additional pieces until done. When cool, the soft pulp easily comes off the skin with a table spoon. This can be done with any of the three colors of Acorn Squashes—dark green, pumpkin orange and pure white—and they taste great. Just mash the pulp with a potato masher for a richer texture and taste, or, if you must, puree it. All my pumpkin pie eaters prefer fresh and fibrous now and sneer at the canned stuff as much as those frozen pies in the frozen food cases.
And of course you can do the same with sweet potato pie. What’s the secret to the best sweet potato pie in the world???? Use Yams!!!!! And instead of that yucky evaporated milk, use half-and-half. Of course, 2 tablespoons of brandy or rum will do any of these pies a world of good. And if you prefer a touch of tanginess, try using sour cream, or part sour cream and part real milk. I’ve seen a Fanny Farmer recipe that requires buttermilk and lemon juice. I might try that one of these days. I even found one that called for sweetened condensed milk. WOW, was that sweet, you could barely tasted the squash.
All these squashes and potatoes use the same recipe, though when I tried sweetmeat squash, it was really too soft for a normal recipe. You have to adjust the recipe as it does not thicken like the harder squashes. ADD FLOUR!!!!! Not a chance!
You’ll notice that there is no recipe provided, that’s because I have great faith that all of you know where to lay your hands on one, and can improvise like the clever and great improviser I’m sure you are. But if not, email me off list.
I was also going to discuss recipes in general, and how I’ve never met one I wasn’t sure I could make better if I changed it in some way, but maybe another time.
PS, I was watching the cooking channel last night and fresh pumpkin was also suggested, however this cook used the small sugar pumpkins and she baked hers. I guess you can do that instead of boiling. Frankly, it sounds too easy.
So, anyone looking forward to trying hard and time consuming over fast and easy this T-day?