It's November already and I keep thinking "what happened to 2006?" Time seems to go by much faster as you get older. I think that's because one year when you are 32 is 1/32 of your entire life, while one year when your are 6, is 1/6 of your entire life, and probably 1/4 of your memorable life so a year seems like an awfully long time.
2006, however, is not yet over and the holidays leave plenty of opportunity to make the year a memorable one. With the passing of Halloween, our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving, which for those of us who enjoy cooking, means thoughts of that perfect turkey brine from an old Bon Appetit, my mom's stuffing, and my very own homemade pie. Oh, and of course, homemade turkey gravy to top it all off. Except the pie of course, for that, we'll use homemade whipping cream. No Cool Whip allowed. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about? Topping it all off with real wholesome fat devoid of any commercial stabilizers or ingredients extracted from corn in a laboratory? Click on the words Cool Whip to read the ingredients. The second one is corn syrup, the third is hydrogenated vegetable oil, oh, and the first one: WATER.
If you've read this blog in the past, you'll know that I like to start my dishes from as close to scratch as possible, so when we went to the Petaluma Pumpkin Patch to scout out some jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, I picked up a Red Kuri squash, which the people at the pumpkin patch indicated would make a phenominal pie. I bought the Red Kuri squash in anticipation of finding a better alternative to pumpkin for my Thanksgiving pie. My mom's been using squash for her "pumpkin" pie for years, although I'm not sure which kind. I split the squash, seeded it, and cut it into wedges. I then peeled the skin, covered the wedges with cold, salted water in a 4 quart pot and brought it to a boil. It only took about 10 minutes of cooking before the squash was ready. I drained the wedges and kept the lid off the pot allowing the excess water to evaporate so the squash wouldn't seem water-logged. I put the squash slices in a food mill, processed it into a smooth puree and measured it for my pie recipe. Unfortunately, the pie turned out a bit more dense than I would have liked, so if I were to try it again with the Red Kuri squash, I will use slightly less of the puree. Next time, however, I'm going to try some sweet pumpkin. I'll let you know how that turns out, but we first need to eat up the squash pie.
Dense as it is, the pie seemed to be pretty tolerable with a little homemade whipping cream... No I didn't milk the cow, but I did buy some high quality Clover brand cream. It's more important than you think to have good quality cream to top your pie. For those in the bay area, Strauss is a great option as well, but a bit more expensive.
I like to make just enough topping for a few slices at a time, and I thought making whipping cream was a great excuse to get Lou in the kitchen. (He likes instant gratification.) I poured 1/2 cup of cream into a small mixing bowl, added a dash of vanilla and 1 Tablespoon of sugar, and directed my apprentice to put the beaters into the hand mixer, this time making sure they were in all the way by listening for the "click". (The first time he tried using it just a few months ago, the beaters flew right out of the mixer when he turned it on and of course he was holding it up, out of the bowl, so they flew across the kitchen.) I then instructed him to beat the whipping cream. He started beating and about 5 seconds into the process, asked me when we add the eggs. I waited a few seconds and the whipping cream told him the whole story. I indicated that was it, and Lou was amazed by the simplicity of combining three natural ingredients to make a delectable dessert topping. For those Cool-Whip users out there, I implore you-turn to the real thing this year.