Kabocha pie: A new Thanksgiving favorite

Kabocha is an interesting squash. It’s dense and compact, and its flavor is the epitome of squash-ness. It’s mild but rich, fragrant even when raw, and the golden (as opposed to the green) variety is particularly sweet. Like, sweet potato-sweet — exactly the kind of gourd you’d want in a pie. Yet its green-rinded fraternal twin is excellent in spicy stews.

Miraculous, is it not?

If you’re feeling like pumpkin pie is just so 200 years ago, try kabocha. It’s fast, unique, and ever so delicious. In fact, pick up two kabochas: one for the pie and one to eat as a side dish or as a bisque base. It’s a vegetable you’ll quickly grow to love.

KABOCHA PIE

serves 6-8

1 small to medium golden kabocha
vegetable oil
2 tsp (or to taste) pumpkin pie spice (which is composed of ginger, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon)
1/2 cup white and 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 to 2 tsp vanilla
2 large or jumbo eggs
1 can evaporated milk
at least one pie crust

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Take your lovely, golden kabocha and cut the sucker in half. Once it’s open, scoop out the seeds and pulp. Don’t be intimidated; this process is much easier than cleaning a pumpkin. Cut the cleaned kabocha into 3/4 to 1 inch slices.

Get a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan, cover it in tin foil, and lightly oil the foil with vegetable oil. Get some on your hands, too, and rub it onto the flesh and rind of the kabocha slices as you arrange them in a single layer on the foil.

Pop the slices into the oven. Depending on the thickness, they’ll bake for about a half hour. Turn them over halfway through baking. They’ll be done when they can be easily pierced with a fork; you’re going to have a baked potato-like consistency, but less flaky and more moist.

Pull them out of the oven and let them cool a bit. At this point, I highly recommend tasting the baked kabocha by itself. You’ll notice that even without seasonings, sugar and spices, it’s already quite sweet and wonderful!

When the kabocha is cool enough to handle, take a spoon and scrape the flesh off the rinds. It’ll be falling off the rinds at this point, anyhow. Scoop the flesh into a bowl, and mash it with a potato masher or a fork. You won’t need to beat it or anything like that; the consistency will be moist and smooth.

At this point, you can store the mashed kabocha until it’s pie time, or you can start baking with it right away. The rest of the recipe will be almost exactly like pumpkin pie.

Mix together your dry ingredients; you can fudge the amounts a bit, especially the sugar, depending on how sweet you want it to be. You can also try using Splenda for a lighter dessert — ditto for the eggs (try Egg Beaters) and evaporated milk (try fat free varieties).

Beat your eggs, stir in around 2 cups of the mashed kabocha, milk, and vanilla, add in your blended sugar and spices, and pour it all into two unbaked pie crusts. Bake them for 40 to 50 minutes until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean.

Let your pie cool for a long time, at least two hours. You can also bake the pie the night before and refrigerate it or cover it with wax paper and let it chill out on the countertop overnight, just depending on the temperature and general nature of your kitchen.

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