The clock struck midnight. The glass slipper was left behind. The prince had an AWOL future princess on his hands. The horses turned back into mice. The carriage turned back into a pumpkin. We all know the story of Cinderella, but was I the only kid who wondered what she did with the rest of the pumpkin? I mean, why just leave a perfectly good pumpkin lying around? That's just irresponsible.
Luckily, we do not need a fairy godmother to conjure up some good uses for pumpkin during this lovely autumn season. All we need is a princess, the Culinary Princess that is.
Besides being great for carving, pumpkin contests and general home decor during fall, I think the pumpkin shines the brightest on your dinner table. Not only is the pumpkin scrum-didly-umptions, but it is also low in saturated fat, and very low in cholesterol and sodium. It is a good source of Vitamin E and iron, and a very good source of dietary fiber, Vitamin A (245 percent of your daily value!) and Vitamin C.
So the usual Pumpkin Pie concept aside, what exactly can you do with this fun and nutritious squash? I have some ideas . . .
Pumpkin Soup: 4-5 servings.
Basic Ingredients: one medium-sized pumpkin; 4 cups Chicken Stock (preferably homemade); 1-2 T Ground Cinnamon; 1-2 T Ground Cumin; 1 t Ground Nutmeg; 1 dash Cayenne Pepper; 1 T Dark Brown Sugar; 1/4 cup Heavy Cream; t Salt; t Pumpkin Seed Oil (for drizzling).
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Slice pumpkin lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Reserve seeds for roasting if desired.
3. Place pumpkin, cut side down on a foil lined sheet tray and roast for 30-45 minutes (depending on size of pumpkin). Pumpkin is done when tender.
4. Peel skin off pumpkin and blend inside pumpkin goodness. Strain through a chinois (or regular strainer).
5. In a medium size sauce pot over medium heat add blended pumpkin and chicken stock. Stir to combine.
6. Add ground cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg and cayenne pepper slowly until desired spice mix flavor is achieved.
7. Sprinkle in dark brown sugar and slowly stir in heavy cream. Do not boil after cream is added.
8. Pour into bowls and garnish with pumpkin seed oil, cinnamon and/or roasted pumpkin seeds.
Pumpkin Risotto: 4-5 servings
Basic Ingredients: Medium-sized Pumpkin, roasted and cut into cubes (see above for roasting instructions); 2 cups Arborio Rice; 4-6 cups Chicken or Pumpkin Stock (preferably homemade) Pumpkin stock can be made by scooping out the inside of a pumpkin and simmering in water for 1 hour. You can add flavoring agents such as cloves, celery, ginger, onion or parsley, depending on your desired flavor. Using pumpkin stock instead of chicken stock will add more pumpkin flavor to your risotto; 4-6 oz Butter; 1 cup Onion, finely minced; 1-2 oz White Wine; tt Lemon Juice; t Parmesan Cheese; t Heavy Cream; t Salt.
Risotto is a traditional Italian way of cooking rice, thus the cooking method has nifty Italian-titled steps.
1. Soffrito: In a sauté pan, sweat onions in butter or oil. (To sweat means to cook until tender, but not brown)
2. Riso: Add the Arborio rice to the pan and cook until shiny. This is called "pearling." The butter or oil will coat each grain individually, preventing the end product from looking clumpy.
3. Vino: Add white wine and reduce (simmer) until most of the wine evaporates. If you don't let the alcohol cook out, the resulting risotto will taste like it has been bar hopping all night.
4. Brodo: Add the chicken or pumpkin stock, a little at a time over medium heat and stir to prevent scorching. Add 3 fl oz or so, stir and wait until the liquid is mostly absorbed before adding another 3 fl oz. Continue until the rice is cooked al dente and has a creamy consistency.
5. Condementi: Mix in a generous amount of butter, roasted pumpkin cubes, a dash of lemon juice and Parmesan cheese. You can also add a dab of heavy cream to add richness. Don't forget to season with salt throughout so that your end product isn't bland.
Pumpkin Sage Stuffed Chicken Breast with Cognac Cream Sauce: 4 servings
Basic Ingredients: Medium-sized Pumpkin, roasted and and blended (see above for roasting instructions); 2 T Sage, minced; 1-2 T Ground Cinnamon; 1 t Ground Nutmeg; 1 T Dark Brown Sugar; 4 Chicken Breasts, butterflied and pounded thin; 1 T Butter, melted; 1/4 cup Cognac or Brandy; 1 T Calvados Apple Brandy; 2 T Butter, cold, unsalted; 1 1/2 cups Heavy Cream; t Salt;
1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Combine pumpkin puree, sage, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar in a medium sized bowl.
3. Spread a generous amount of pumpkin puree mixture on the inside of each chicken breast. Roll each breast and secure with toothpicks.
4. Place rolled chicken breasts on foil lined sheet pan and brush lightly with melted butter. Bake for 30-45 min or until internal temperature reaches 165° F and juices run clear.
5. Sauce Preparation: 1. In a hot sauté pan that is held off of the fire, add brandy and Calvados and allow alcohol to burn off. Can flambé to speed up the process, but please be very careful. Never add alcohol to pan while pan is on the stove.
2. Over medium heat, add butter to brandy and swirl to emulsify. Make sure to keep moving the pan so that the fat does not separate.
3. Turn down heat and slowly swirl in heavy cream and reduce, but do not boil.
6. Serve sauce over chicken rolls. Slice chicken rolls for better presentation.
And, whatever pumpkin recipe we choose, we all ate happily ever after.
[Aleya is the Executive Chef and Owner of Culinary Princess Catering, a gourmet catering company serving the greater Los Angeles Area. She is trained by the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and also possesses a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Southern California. Aleya looks at food from a traditional perspective, but adds a youthful, modern twist. Described as spunky, creative, inspiring and insightful, Aleya will educate and entertain you at the same time. Contact Aleya at Aleya@CulinaryPrincessCatering. For more information about Aleya, please visit www.CulinaryPrincessCatering.com.]