Ever since our trip to Avila Barn, I have been pondering on squash. I have yet to show-off my crazy "winged" squash, but I overheard some ladies talking about the fact that all squash can be eaten. This brought to mind the mistake I made last year of cooking a decorative pumpkin from Casey's farm (awesome!); despite its green skin and whitish innards, it turned out to be the best pumpkin soup I ever made. While listening to the women, I wondered what wonders could be made with the zillions of squash before me and, sure enough.... there is a magical pie!
The Chinese Five-Spice Winter Squash Pie was a little bit more involved than the Apple Cheddar Cheese Pie. It required a total of 2.5 hours of preparation (most of which was done during the cooking time or food processor) and a handful of more ingredients, but all in all it was not terribly complicated.
I did, however, have to learn about (and brave) delicata squash. This variety of winter squash is rather ugly in the humble opinion of Sarah I and I. It's yellowy-greeny and plastic looking. It just doesn't come across as something good to eat - but if you submitted to this superficial assessment, you would be sorely missing out! After performing the first step of the pie recipe (cooking the squash for 50 minutes), it was clear that the wonderful sweet-potato-like smell filling the house was, in fact, not coming from the butternut squash the recipe called for, but the delicata! Thusly, it is actually known as "the sweet potato squash" for this familiar aroma and taste. The squash was not only more manageable to cut and deseed, it had a great smooth texture and sweet, woody or nutty flavor. This is probably because it is far less dense and stringy than most squash. This latter fact is likely why it fell into obscurity until fairly recently since its introduction in the 1920s - the thin skin and creamy flesh doesn't transport terribly well.
(More on winter squash!)
As I said before, I would like to encourage looking into the book, Pie, so I will only summarize the recipe; however, I am quickly learning that pie-making consists of four, usually very simple, steps:
(0)Prepare the crust)
1) Cook the filling
2) Puree/chop up the filling
3) place it in the pie crust
Essentially, this pie required me to simply bake the squash at 50 min, puree it with all the other ingredients, and bake for another 50 min!
|Butternut Squash||Delicata Squash|
I might give up my pumpkin pie preference in favor of delicata. I can't wait to try it in a soup!
One very helpful tip I learned from Pie was that only a very shallow bed of water is required for the dish in which the squash are being cooked - putting the right amount of water will keep the squash dense and make a more creamy puree than a lot of water, which will get absorbed during the long cooking process.
Also, I made an almost vegan/vegetarian version (I still used eggs) for my father-in-law and sister-in-law (one has a wheat allergy and both avoid dairy). I replaced the flour with rice flour (often the preferred gluten-free pastry alternative) I used almond milk in lieu of the half-and-half; but since it is so much thinner I added an extra two table spoons of rice flour. I got a nearly identical consistency! But the flavor was a bit off. The rice flour also had a distinct flavor that I recalled being present in anything I've cooked with rice flour. I might try 1/4 c of tapioca instead. I think next time around, I would want to play more on the almond tones that definitely compliment the nutty delicata flavor, too - perhaps by adding an extra tsp or two of nutmeg and then roasting some almond slivers and garnishing the top with them!