Don't wait for dessert to enjoy pumpkin

October 20, 2010 9:55:38 AM PDT
We're seeing lots of pumpkins these days, and as we draw closer to Halloween, plenty of chefs are using pumpkins on their menus.

But not all of them are relegating this seasonal squash to the pastry department.

Most diners expect to see roasted acorn or butternut squash on their menus this time of year, but pumpkin is the dark horse. True, pastry chefs have been scraping and roasting the orange flesh into pies and other sweets, but some chefs are finding a lot of potential in pumpkin's savory uses as well.

Why is it that pie and cheesecake get all of the pumpkin love this time of year? To Susan Goss -- who works with all kinds of squash at West Town Tavern -- the annual riddle always surprises her.

"People don't think of pumpkin as a savory ingredient, it's funny. People will think of butternut squash, acorn squash, curried acorn squash, wedges of acorn squash. But they don't think of curried pumpkin, or mashed pumpkin with a pork loin or something like that."

So Goss does what most every chef in town does: she first roasts it until it's soft.

"I like to cut it into pieces, roast it with a little bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper, maybe some fresh thyme, maybe some spices, and just wait till it's just tender enough to be pierced with a fork, and then take it out."

The seasoned, softened pie pumpkin is then placed onto a pastry dough, along with some Laura Chenel goat cheese from California. A little bit of parmesan adds the slightest amount of saltiness.

The dough is then folded over the edges in a free-form manner, resulting in a traditional galette. It's baked in the oven, just until the crust is burnished and golden; the spiced pumpkin and rich cheese completely melded together. It's a savory galette, and there's not an acorn or butternut in sight.

"There seems to be this mindset that pumpkin is one thing and squash is another, but it's actually all the same vegetable."

The galette is a seasonal item, so be sure to call ahead, just to make sure it's on the menu.

West Town Tavern
1329 W. Chicago Ave
312-666-6175
www.westtowntavern.com

Recipe for curried pumpkin and goat cheese gallette
Link: http://www.westtowntavern.com/recipes-details.asp?ID=30

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 pie pumpkin, about 1 pound
  • 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons (about 3 cups sliced)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp whole fennel seed
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 4 oz fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 tbl chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 Tbl grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pie pastry for 1 crust pie, purchased or homemade

Method
Preheat oven to 375°F.

Peel squash, cut in half and scoop out seeds. Cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Transfer pumpkin to a medium bowl and add the olive oil, sliced onions and the spices. Toss well and spread onto a baking sheet. Roast pumpkin and onion mixture for 30 minutes until onions are caramelized and the pumpkin is almost tender. Let cool to room temperature. Pumpkin may be prepared up to two days ahead.

On a floured work surface, roll the pie pastry into a 12" round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet or pizza pan. Spread pumpkin mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Scatter the goat cheese over the top and sprinkle with the thyme and Parmesan cheese. Fold the border over the vegetables, pleating the edges. Leave the center open.

Bake gallette until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into 8 wedges.


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