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Oct 27, 2013

The Pumpkin Trials

I've been doing time. Hard time. In the kitchen with a bunch of stone-faced pumpkins and one adorable sous chef. You see, I decided to make "Winter Squash" (mainly the pumpkin) the feature ingredient in this months cooking class. That being said, my sous chef and I have been testing recipes and we've made pumpkin gnocchi no less than 54682 times in the past few weeks.

Here is my sous chef demonstrating how to make gnocchi. 
(and some random TV dude photo bombing us)
 I was beginning to think that gnocchi should only be reserved for the potato, but then the sous chef suggested that we roast a whole pumpkin and use it instead of the pumpkin in the can, which we had been using. She's a genius...that's why I pay her the big beaters...errr...I mean the big bucks. The texture from the real deal is a little thicker, meaning less flour, meaning more pumpkin flavor and fluffier dumplings.

The Sous Chef, taking her checks to the bank.

Moving on to pumpkin hummus ~ A roasted garlic and rosemary version was just so-so. One with cinnamon and all the typical pumpkin-y spices was predictable, and a cilantro-lime version was just OK.  I'm of the opinion that pumpkin shouldn't go in hummus unless you are out of garbanzo beans and about a million other ingredients, so pass on the hummus and go directly to pumpkin soup.

Here's a shot of my Southwestern Pumpkin Soup 
with Toasted Cumin Creme, White Cheddar,
and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.
We will be making this at Tuesdays class.

Next I got on a pumpkin Alfredo kick. I tried it first on fettuccine but liked it best on the gnocchi with some toasted hazelnuts and a drizzle of hazelnut oil. We recruited Hates Everything as a taste tester and she liked it so it's definitely going on the cooking class menu. No sneak peek here. It's in our bellies!
      Since I was already on the Creamy-Cheesy train to Fat-town I decided to try pumpkin mac and cheese. It wasn't bad but if it's not broke don't screw with it, and since there is nothing wrong with the version that mothers have been making for their kids for generations, this was screwing with it. Under oath I would deny liking any fake cheese like VELVEETA, but let's be honest, you just can't beat that stuff for its creamy, melty goodness so after two attempts, pumpkin mac and cheese won't make the cut...even though I did add bacon and toasted bread crumbs. *sigh*

Pumpkin Mac & Cheese...with bacon and toasted bread crumbs. 
It's just not good enough without Velveeta. There, I said it...into the microphone.
My sous chef and I also made a pumpkin roll 
and a pumpkin mousse, which didn't suck...
and a pumpkin beer bread that did suck.

The Pumpkin Roll.  

Pumpkin Mousse with Amaretti's on the menu!

I found the beer bread recipe on a blog called gimmesomeoven. I followed Ali's advice and wasted a good pumpkin ale on it, and not only did it not get done (cooked, baked, whatev) in the middle, it was as tough as an old shoe. I went back to the blog to see what comments the "other" bakers had made about the beer bread and it was filled with a bunch of gushing idiots saying things like, oh this sounds so good, I love beer bread, you're so creative, can't wait to make it, blah, blah, blah comments. Obviously not one of the twenty-four people who commented had ever made it, so I left Ali, from gimmesomeoven, a nice comment that said something like, (condensed version;) love your blog, made the beer bread, it stayed doughy and was tough as an old shoe, what did I do wrong? In other words I took full responsibility for the failure. And guess what Ali did? She frickin' deleted my comment!  Seriously Ali, you could have just said, I hear you suck as a baker, and I would have said, yeah, so what's your point? Or you could have said, I'm sorry your bread was shitty, mine was perfect, can I buy you a beer? But no. She deleted me!  I say, Ali if you can't take the heat stay out of the kitchen. Have you ever heard that one before? Huh?
     I know that some people can't boil water and maybe I'm one of them. But if you put it out there, own that shit! Damn straight I will. But enough about Ali. Sous chef and I tend to gravitate towards people with an actual backbone.   

Anyhow, we got sick of pumpkins and then switched to squash. A butternut squash tart with fried sage leaves made the cut, butternut pasta did not. Lasagna stuffed spaghetti squash is in. Spaghetti squash in a bacon-tomato-fennel sauce...not so much.

Here's our beautiful tart!

So a few hundred pumpkins, squash, and dirty dishes later I finally have a menu put together for my next cooking class. It does involve a lot of cream and nutmeg and Pumpkin Patch Ale. Beer bread be damned!

Click on this link for the Butternut Squash Tart or this one for the Southwest Pumpkin Soup. If you want any of the other recipes let me know and I'll send them your way or put them up on this blog.

The sous chef...on payday!

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