“What do you eat at Thanksgiving?” I get this question a lot, not from people seeking my favorite recipes but from those wondering how a pescatarian can fill her plate from a holiday table featuring a giant bird. It always makes me laugh: Thanksgiving is the one holiday at which I’m guaranteed to eat well, thanks to the tradition of cooking far more food that the intended guests can consume.
No matter your food preferences, the Thanksgiving spread is sure to include things you will and will not eat. These days, turkey tops my move-on-down-the-line list, along with accompaniments baked in or built from the star of the show. But as a kid, my least favorite Thanksgiving dish was pumpkin pie. I was in college before I learned to appreciate any variety of winter squash, and I didn’t discover a true liking for pumpkin pie until I deviated from the too common canned filling to home-roasted, lightly spiked sugar pumpkin.
Creamy Pumpkin–Rum Pie
2 cups Roasted Pumpkin Puree
1/4 cup butter
1 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fit the rolled pie dough into a deep, 9-inch pie plate. If any dough hangs more than an inch over the edge of the plate, tear it away. Flute the remaining dough along the lip of the pie plate, folding it up to the rim and pinching it between your thumb and forefinger to form a tall, wavy edge.
In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin and eggs, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth; set aside. In a small saucepan, melt the butter; remove it from the heat and then add the honey and molasses, stirring with a fork until the butter softens the sweeteners. Add this mixture to the pumpkin, mixing with a wire whisk until well blended. Measure the heavy cream into a small glass measuring cup, and then stir in the rum, vanilla, and ground spices. Use a rubber spatula to fold this mixture into the pumpkin.
Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust. Smooth the surface gently with a spatula, and then tap the pie plate on the counter several times to settle the filling and remove any air bubbles. Tear off a piece of foil half as long as the circumference of the pie plate, and then tear the foil sheet in half down its length. Fold the ends of the pieces together to make a long strip, and then wrap this around the rim of the pie plate and fold the remaining ends together to form a halo that covers the edge of the crust with foil.
Bake the pie at 425°F for about 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for another 10 minutes before removing the foil and rotating the pie plate. Continue baking at this temperature an additional 25–30 minutes, until the filling is slightly puffy and the center barely wiggles. Let cool for at least 1 hour before serving or storing in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Serves 8–10.
Tips & Tricks
- The filling in this recipe should come up to the rim of a deep pie plate, so make sure you build up a tall fluted edge. If you’re using a shallower pie pan, only add enough filling to touch the fluting; bake off the extra in a custard dish for an early treat, perhaps following your soup meal (see below).
- The key to a cream pie that isn’t soggy or undercooked is to reduce the amount of liquid in the filling. Be sure you drained your pumpkin puree thoroughly. If it’s been in the freezer or fridge, bring it to room temperature and drain it again before measuring.
- Overcooking is also common with cream pies. They’ll continue to cook after leaving the oven, so pull the pie from the heat when the center is puffed and cooked but still jiggles—before cracking begins.
- The rum is nice in this pie, but the real flavor boost comes from the roasting, molasses, and spices. For an alcohol-free dessert, simply drop the rum; imitation rum extract (or imitation vanilla, for that matter) isn’t a worthy substitution.
- Although I give measurements for ground spices here, anyone who’s taken my spice workshop has discovered the power of whole spices. So feel free to toast and grind your own spice blend; it’s delicious in everything from pies to cookies to granola.
- Pumpkin pie seems naked without whipped cream, which is so simple to make that I don’t know why Reddi-Wip and Cool Whip were invented. For this pie, I typically whip a tablespoon each of honey (for sweetness) and powdered milk (for shape) into 1/2 cup of heavy cream. For an extra kick, add a splash of rum.
Twice as Tasty
Pumpkin wasn’t the only squash I disliked as a kid: I couldn’t stand any of them. My father grew primarily acorn, and my mom mostly prepared it in his favorite way: sliced in half and baked in the shell with butter and brown sugar. I found the dish cloyingly sweet, and my hatred of it rolled over to any squash variety.
I have some cousins to thank for introducing me to edible squash dishes. On one visit to their San Francisco home during my college years, they served up a squash soup that I was too polite to turn down. It was creamy, flavorful, slightly spicy, and completely savory. I quickly emptied my bowl and set out to learn how squash could taste so different and so good. I soon discovered that although different varieties have different flavors, what I was attracted to was the taste of an unsweetened squash dish. I have no idea what recipe my cousins created, but the one that follows has become my go-to variation.
Roasted Squash Soup
2 medium onions
5 cloves garlic
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
2/3 cup sherry
5 cups Vegetable Stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh ginger
1 teaspoon homemade curry powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
pinch of cayenne (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups roasted, pureed squash, such as butternut or pumpkin
roasted seeds from the squash (optional)
Oil a 9- by 13-inch baking pan. Peel the potato and onions, cut them into chunks, and add them to the pan, along with the garlic cloves still in their skins. Toss the vegetables lightly in the oil and roast at 400°F for 45 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.
Peel and slice the carrot. In a stockpot, heat the butter or oil over medium heat and then add the carrot and roasted onion. Sauté for 5 minutes before squeezing the roasted garlic cloves from their skins and into the pot. Stir, add the liquids, and then bring the pot to a boil. Peel and mince the ginger, and then add it and the spices to the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the roasted potatoes and squash puree; cook for another 5 minutes, until the flavors are blended. Use an immersion blender to puree the vegetables, or pour the soup into a blender in batches and puree until smooth. Remove from the heat and serve topped with roasted seeds, if desired. Serves 6.
Tips & Tricks
- Almost any winter squash works in this soup, from sugar pumpkin to butternut to kabocha. This winter, I’m making it from “Baby Bear,” “Jester,” and “Delicata” grown by my niece and nephew.
- As with Creamy Pumpkin–Rum Pie, the roasting maximizes the flavor of this soup. If you haven’t roasted your squash yet, add it to the oven with the other vegetables, roasting lower and slower.
- Once the vegetables are roasted, this recipe is a variation of my 30-minute soups, scaled up to a larger batch. The potato and squash supply plenty of thickening power, so there’s no need for a roux.
- One of my favorite things about this recipe is the new soups created just by altering the spices. You can replace the ginger with sage and the curry powder with parsley to get a more classic flavor. Other ideas include smoked chilies and cilantro or Italian Seasoning Blend.
Like what you’ve learned? Twice as Tasty is offering holiday workshops designed to make your contributions to holiday meals and parties the talk of the night. To learn more, click here.