October is a wonderful time of year. The trees begin to change colors, there’s a crisp nip in the air, the first frost is on the horizon … not! This is Florida!
October is still great because of two things: Halloween and pumpkins, which go hand-in-hand.
Halloween is a wonderful, yet twisted, celebration. Though Halloween doesn’t represent any significant historical event and its religious ties are blurred, we Americans have embraced it, tweaked it, and made it into a celebration of junk food, especially candy – and not just any candy, but the super-cheap, mass-produced, high-fructose corn syrup crap! That’s what I’m talking about – an entire pillowcase full of individually wrapped, empty-calorie goodness. Is this my secret guilty food obsession?
The temperature here in the 904 is also perfect for Halloween; you can wear any costume and not worry about freezing to death during trick-or-treating (or bar-hopping).
The only drawback to our beautiful weather is that pumpkins have very short shelf lives. Jack o’lanterns tend to rot in a couple of days, turning into squishy, bug-infested, molding masses that make you wonder if that time spent carving them was worth it. Get over yourself, of course it was!
Yet pumpkins can serve another equally wonderful purpose: food. Traditionally, Americans eat pumpkins in pies. If I close my eyes, I can almost smell the spice, taste the sweet, soft custard, and anticipate the inevitable whipped Chantilly cream garnish. Yummm!
Yet pumpkin can also be utilized as a savory dish with surprisingly delectable results. See, kids, a pumpkin is nothing but a hard winter squash. Therefore it can be used interchangeably with other squashes such as butternut or acorn. It also has a texture and flavor profile similar to a sweet potato.
Do you see where I’m going? How about some pumpkin risotto, or pumpkin ravioli with brown butter and sage? You could also try it in Indian or Asian cuisine.
On that vein, try this Thai pumpkin curry; I know I’ll be eating it this Halloween season.
Chef Bill’s Pumpkin & Chicken Curry
- 1 small baking pumpkin, approx. 1 lb.
- 1 yellow onion, small dice
- 1 Tbs. ginger, minced
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 2-1/2 Tbs. green curry paste
- 1-1/5 lb. chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper, large dice
- 1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, large dice
- 3 Thai bird chilies, 1/16th-inch slices
- 1 lime, juiced
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2 cup Thai basil, torn
- Cut pumpkin in half lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds, save for toasting.
- Cut each half into 1-1/2-inch wedges, trim off the skin and cut into 1-inch cubes.
- Blanch pumpkin in salted water until just tender.
- Process onion, ginger, lemongrass and curry paste in a food processer until fairly smooth.
- Cut the chicken thighs into 2-inch squares. Heat oil in a wok and stir-fry for three minutes until cooked. Remove to a plate.
- Add curry paste mix to wok and quickly toast, add all the peppers, stir, add brown sugar and coconut milk.
- Bring mixture to a simmer and add lime juice and fish sauce.
- Return the chicken and simmer for about five minutes. Add basil. Adjust seasoning.
- Serve with steamed jasmine rice.
Until we cook again,
Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Amelia Island Culinary Academy in Historic Fernandina Beach, at [email protected] with your recipes or questions, to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!