Bring the Taste of America to Your Dinner Table
● By Justin Butts
Words by: Justin & Kayla Butts Photos by: Rachel Benavides
In America, we have always been crazy about pumpkins. There is something particularly lovely, and distinctly American, about a pumpkin—the beauty, the flavor, the weight, the plain old wholesome goodness. Pumpkins are the perfect symbol of autumn from the forests of New England to the glittering shores of South Texas.
Native Americans featured pumpkins in fall festivals a thousand years before Europeans landed at Plymouth Rock. Native Americans passed their love of pumpkins to the newly-arrived Pilgrim colonists. The Pilgrims, if possible, loved pumpkins even more than their Indian friends.
Pumpkin quickly became the most commonly served food at the Thanksgiving table. The Pilgrims made pumpkins into bread, butter, sugar, sauce, and syrup. Pumpkin was even brewed into beer.
Our fall recipes feature roasted pumpkin and toasted seeds, the oldest and simplest preparations of all. Plus, for a Thanksgiving twist, we also feature pumpkin risotto and pumpkin cinnamon rolls!
As a home chef, never be intimidated by a large or irregularly shaped pumpkin. You can easily break down a big pumpkin by cutting it in half, saving the seeds, and slicing the halves into thick strips. Roasting a pumpkin is simple and will yield a bounty of sweet flesh with limitless uses. The toasted seeds are one of the signature treats of autumn.
Pumpkin risotto is a perfect Thanksgiving dish for your vegetarian friends, or just an elegant side on your Thanksgiving table. This risotto is rich, creamy, and savory—a great use for your roasted pumpkin.
You can also use your roasted pumpkin to make cinnamon rolls. These decadent treats will become an instant family favorite, your newest Thanksgiving tradition for breakfast.
Get your fall pumpkins now, while you can. Look for heirloom varieties from local farms: New England Sugar Pie, Rouge Vif D’ Etampes, Connecticut Field Pumpkin, or the lovely Galeux D’ Eysines. You can also use any winter squash in these recipes, from Butternut to Acorn to Blue Hubbard.
When you serve pumpkin at your Thanksgiving table, you are celebrating one of the most cherished traditions in America, and with these recipes, you will love your pumpkins more than ever.
We want to extend a thank you to Wildflowers, for providing us with the beautiful table setting.
Cook time: About 35-45 minutes
Pumpkin or large squash (3-20 lbs)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut the pumpkin or squash in half and scrape out the seeds and pith. Reserve seeds for roasting at a later time. If pumpkin is larger than 5 lbs, cut into eighths to reduce cooking time. Place squash flesh side down on a baking sheet and add 1 cup of water to the bottom of the pan. Check squash after 20 minutes and add more water if necessary. Cook until fork tender.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cups aborino rice
½ cup dry white wine (recommend: vermouth or your favorite pino grigio)
4-5 cups homemade or high-quality chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp poultry seasoning
¼ tsp nutmeg (or about 4 grates of a fresh nutmeg)
1 lb roasted pumpkin, diced
1 cup grated Pecorino cheese
In a medium saucepan, heat stock until it begins to simmer. Reduce heat so that stock remains hot.
In a large, cast-iron or heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sauté shallots for 2 minutes. Add garlic and rice, stirring frequently, and sauté until the rice begins to release a nutty flavor. Add wine to the pan, stirring to incorporate the ingredients until the liquid has mostly absorbed (for about 5 minutes).
Ladle in ½ cup broth, stirring with a non-reactive spoon until moisture is absorbed. Add another ½ cup broth and repeat process, letting broth become absorbed until rice becomes creamy but rice still has a small amount of bite to it. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients. Serve 1/3 cup for a side portion, and 2/3 cup for a meal portion.
Makes: 1 dozen rolls
Prep time:: 20 minutes
Inactive prep time: 1 ½ hours
Cook time: 25 minutes
Ingredients for dough:
1 cup whole milk
6 tbsp butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 ¼ tsp (1 packet) instant yeast
1 cup roasted pumpkin, pureed
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp pumpkin spice
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
Ingredients for Filling:
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup roasted pumpkin, pureed
2 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp cinnamon
Ingredients for frosting:
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tbsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Combine milk, butter, and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until warm to the touch, about 120°F. Add yeast to milk mixture and stir to combine. Let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy. Stir pumpkin into yeast starter.
In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Stir dry ingredients into yeast mixture until well incorporated. Knead dough by hand or in a standing mixer for about 7 minutes, until a smooth elastic dough is formed. Let dough sit in a warm place for at least an hour, or until doubled in size.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine ingredients for the filling. Once dough has doubled, tip it onto a floured work surface. Roll dough out to about a 12”x15” rectangle. Brush on filling until entire surface is covered. Starting with the longer side, roll the dough tightly, in the style of a jelly roll. Using dental floss, cut the roll into 9-12 sections. Place pieces cut side down into a 9x13” pan and cover with a kitchen towel. Let proof an additional 30-60 minutes.
Remove towel and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the center has set. Cool on a wire rack
Combine ingredients for frosting in a large bowl or standing mixer and beat until smooth.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Pumpkin seeds and/or large squash seeds, rinsed with pith removed
1-2 tbsp olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Preheat oven to 250°F. Spread seeds evenly on a baking sheet. Drizzle seeds with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Hand toss to distribute seasoning. Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring the seeds every ten minutes to prevent burning. Seeds are done when they are golden brown, crisp, and have a nutty fragrance.