Pumpkin pie has been on my A-list forever, and I’ve never understood why we relegate it to the holiday menus between November and January 1st. Delicious? Check — Simply and swiftly made? Check — Made from accessible inexpensive ingredients? Check — Popular? Check! Perhaps its automatic inclusion on menus that require turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce gets in the way of our ability to think outside the holiday box. Grocery stores, farms stands and farmers’ markets around here have been stacking up gourds all week, and placing this year’s pumpkin supply out in full view of the Halloween crowd. The jack-o-lantern pumpkins decorating the marketplace telegraph the arrival of autumn nicely, and they serve carvers well as a canvas for scary faces. But if you’ve tried using the standard pumpkins for cooking, you know that their texture and flavor leave much to be desired, piewise. Farmers’ markets often carry old-time pumpkins, varying in color and shape from the bright orange standard, and tending to have thick, sweet flesh which is ideal from a pie-making point of view. Butternut squash makes a grand alternative to pumpkin in most any recipe calling for cooked mashed pumpkin or pumpkin puree. I love it peeled and cut into large chunks as an ingredient in Thai-style curries, and for roasting along with parsnips, carrots garlic, and onions. These days I’m finding it peeled and chunked up in the produce section, making it a quick fix for curries, for roasting, and for simmering just until tender enough to mash to a puree. From there I season it with salt and either butter or Asian sesame oil as a fall sidedish, or stir it into this fine, spiced fall pie.
Nancie’s Butternut Squash Pie
1 unbaked 9-inch piecrust
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash
3/4 cup evaporated milk or half-and-half
2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup honey, dark corn syrup, maple syrup, or molasses
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to combine them well. Combine the butternut squash, milk or half-and-half, eggs and honey or syrup in a medium bowl. Stir all this up with a whisk, an eggbeater, or a large spoon, until everything is evenly combined. Stir in the sugar-and-spices mixture and mix it all together evenly and well. Pour this mixture into the unbaked piecrust and place it in the oven 450 degree oven on a lower rack. Bake 10 minutes, and then lower the heat to 325 degrees F. Continue baking until the filling is firm and the outer edges of the pie puff up nicely, 35 to 45 minutes. (The very center can still be a bit jiggly but overall the pie should be firm and set.) Set the pie on a cooling rack or on a folded kitchen towel to cool to room temperature.