Pumpkin, Mustard, Cream — And Fall

A beauty of a red kabocha squash.
A beauty of a red kabocha squash.

As award-winning food writer Nigel Slater so astutely states in his newest cookbook, autumn and winter call for far different types of meals. With brisk weather and darker nights, they fairly demand more substantial and weightier fare to nourish and warm us through and through.

As his new “Greenfeast: Autumn, Winter” (Ten Speed Press) shows, though, that doesn’t necessarily dictate huge slabs of meat. In fact, in this cookbook, of which I received a review copy, he shows with 110 vegetarian recipes that even in the throes of deepest winter, you can feel mighty satiated with plant-based fare.

As always, his joyously descriptive writing is evident throughout, including in the introduction, where he unabashedly states, “There will be carbs. They protect and energize us. They bring balm to our jagged nerves.”

My kind of carbs -- fall-apart tender squash in a mustardy cream sauce.
My kind of carbs — fall-apart tender squash in a mustardy cream sauce.

Ah, a man after my own stomach.

Comforting, quick and easy, these recipes take up only one page apiece, for the most part. They include “Rainbow Chard, Egg, Noodles,” “Crumpets, Cream Cheese, Spinach,” “Tomato, Chiles, Udon,” and “Apples, Ginger Cake, Custard.”

“Pumpkin, Mustard, Cream” so appealed because who can resist sweet, starchy pumpkin at this time of year, especially when covered in a creamy mustard sauce?

This is one of those largely hands-off recipe. You cut up the pumpkin — or in my case, an orange kabocha — and sear the wedges, before placing them in a roasting pan with a generous amount of chicken or vegetable stock. They roast for quite awhile — about 90 minutes total — during which time, like sponges, the wedges suck up the stock. So much so, that they end up with a texture “so soft and giving as to be almost like sorbet,” as Slater describes.

As a result, when you transfer the pieces to a serving dish, don’t be surprised if they start collapsing and falling apart. Yes, you may not end up with picture-perfect intact wedges, but the resulting taste will more than make up for their messy appearance.

Reduce the stock, then stir in heavy cream, as well as a little whole grain mustard and a little Dijon. Then, spoon the sauce all over the pumpkin before serving.

The cooked pumpkin, softer than a mash and autumnally sweet, with a far deeper flavor from all the stock, is pure comfort. The cream sauce provides a rich velvety component, with the sharpness of the mustard adding a perky warmth.

It makes for a fabulous side dish to roast meats of any sort. Or just enjoy it scooped into a bowl, preferably when you’re dressed in flannel p.j.’s, with a big spoon in your hand.

And don’t forget a wedge of crusty bread alongside to sop up all that lovely sauce.

There will be carbs, all right.

The time is right for a dish like this.
The time is right for a dish like this.

Pumpkin, Mustard, Cream

(Serves 3)

Pumpkin (or kabocha squash), skin on (4 pounds, 8 ounces)

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 quart hot chicken or vegetable stock

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream

1 tablespoon grain mustard

1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard

Cut the pumpkin in half and each half into three large wedges. Remove and discard the seeds and fibers. Warm the olive oil in a large, deep-sided roasting pan over moderate heat. Lightly brown both cut sides of each wedge of pumpkin, turning them over as each one colors using kitchen tongs.

Set the oven to 425 degrees F. Lay the wedges of pumpkin on their side in a roasting pan, then pour in the hot chicken or vegetable stock and seal the roasting pan with aluminum foil. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the foil, turn the pieces of pumpkin over, and baste them thoroughly with the stock. Return to the oven and continue cooking for another 45 minutes. The pumpkin should be translucent, each slice heavy with stock.

Carefully lift the pumpkin from the stock and set aside on a warm serving dish. Place the stock over a fierce heat and let it reduce to 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons. Pour in the cream, then stir in the two mustards, a little at a time, until you have a warmth you like. Season with salt and black pepper.

Spoon the mustard sauce on the slices of pumpkin and serve.

Adapted from “Greenfeast” by Nigel Slater

More Squash Recipes Perfect For This Time of Year: Kabocha Squash Cheesecake with Walnut Crust

And: Braised Chicken with Farro, Kale, and Winter Squash

And: Kombu Roast Chicken with Kabocha Squash and Daikon

And: Lamb and Butternut Squash Ragu with Mint, Orange and Tomatoes

And: Acorn Squash, Stracciatella & Sage

And: Butternut Squash with Balsamic and Chile Panko Crumbs

And: Kabocha Squash and Grilled New Onion Salad with Yogurt, Pomegranate, and Almonds

And: Squash with Chile Yogurt and Cilantro Sauce

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