When you think of pumpkins, I’d be willing to hypothesize that 1 of 2 things come to mind: Halloween or pumpkin pie. You might then find yourself thinking of either carving pumpkins or eating loads of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. I do love Halloween, don’t get me wrong – but I adore Thanksgiving, especially pumpkin pie. The word pumpkin definitely renders thoughts of food for me – screw the trick or treating and all those costumes. I want something real. Something real tasty, that is.
Saturday night wasn’t just about pumpkin pie, as you will probably guess if you know anything about our Iron Chef group. The Reigning Iron Chef, Jim, promised a superb seasonal ingredient for this battle. Which to me could only mean 1 of 3 ingredients: butternut squash (which I obviously love..), apples, or pumpkin. I’d already decided if the former or latter were chosen that I would wield my once-used pasta attachment and whip up an awesome batch of winter squash ravioli. That being said, when Wednesday rolled around and Jim’s email proclaiming pumpkin as the ingredient was opened, I aloud (in my office…by myself…) said “pumpkin ravioli”, my arms raised into the air with excitement. That, of course, was the exact moment someone walked in and I was prompted to explain my bizarre outburst.
Let’s just stop there and say I was very excited about eating some pumpkin-infused goodies. I knew someone would make pumpkin pie (thank you, Simps) and I knew someone would make soup (we ended up with 3!). I hoped we’d have an ice cream because pumpkin ice cream is so incredibly divine in some many ways that just thinking about it makes me want to dart, in my pj’s, down to Cold Stone. I thought about making it myself, but since I’d won a battle before with an ice cream & cake combo, I thought I’d lose points in the creativity department. I also imagined some biscuits, muffins, and bread and some good uses of pumpkin seeds. Aside from the ice cream, it was almost as if I literally thought the dishes into being. If any of you watch Supernatural, think about that last episode – I was that kid – only my power was limited by ice cream. Damn limitations.
As a side-note, for those of you who don’t watch Supernatural, you should. Dean is so hot, and no – I am not a 16 year old, although I just sounded like one. The show isn’t bad either…
Attending Battle Pumpkin were 11 eager and ravenous competitors – 3 newbies recruited by Lindsay and a total of 17 dishes. As usual, our appetites were a bit larger than our intestinal volumes, but we plunged through, bite by bite and judged them all. We had soups’ galore (all different – spicy pumpkin, pumpkin, shrimp bisque), pumpkin casserole, a tasty pumpkin beverage, and on and on. I made a (gluten-free) pumpkin bread pudding that was baked and served in a pumpkin and a pumpkin cashew curry. I thought the bread pudding had great flavor, but I should have par-baked the bread as I learned that g-free bread gets soggy easily. The curry was good, but needed some creaminess – should have used regular full-fat coconut milk for that one.
I’m sure you’re all wondering, just plain dying to know, who won this time. The winner, again, was a bearer of the Y chromosome. I swear I never thought the guys would take it seriously – but they come strong every single time. I have got to get motivated enough to step it up and really bring it next time! The winner, another Chris and newbie to the battles, made a fine pumpkin brittle that was perfectly cut and perfectly crunchy – it won us all over. It didn’t hurt that he presented them in a Halloween-themed glass with glow sticks .
The top three:
- Chris (newbie)’s Pumpkin brittle
- Chris (hubby)’s Pumpkin & Shrimp Bisque
- Hope’s Pumpkin Casserole
Which reminds me – who invited my husband to these battles anyway? He keeps getting in the top two! I should add here that I’m posting his recipe – though he was a bit disappointed in the outcome given all his hard work in the kitchen, it turned out really tasty and it did win second place. I think the shrimp went nicely with the texture of the soup and if a little more pumpkin is added (which I took the liberty of adding below) it would be downright perfect.
Next time, I’m putting sparklers on my plate. And I’m making ice cream too.
Pumpkin & Shrimp Bisque
from Epicurious, 2000; serves 8
1 lb large shrimp
2 T evoo
3/4 c dry white wine
3 c low sodium chicken broth
pinch of saffron threads
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
4 fresh bay leaves, torn; or 2 dried
3 3″ sprigs fresh sage
3 c pumpkin puree, fresh (or canned)
1/2 c heavy cream
3/4 t salt (less if using canned stock)
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1 T fresh lemon juice
black pepper, freshly ground
1 T evoo
2 t finely chopped fresh sage
- Shrimp stock: peel and devein shrimp, reserve shells. Cover and refrigerate shrimp. Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over high heat until it begins to smoke. Add shrimp shells to pan, cook stirring constantly, until they turn deep orange and are just beginning to brown, about 3-4 minutes. (You should really smell some shrimp smells throughout the house). Add wine, first turning off flame or removing pan from flame, then boil over medium heat until liquid is evaporated. Add chicken stock, saffron, celery, onion, bay leaves, sage. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes (with pan partially covered). Strain stock through fine sieve, pushing down solids to get all the liquid. Rinse out saucepain and pour stock back in.
- Soup: Whisk pumpkin, cream, salt, and cayenne into stock. Bring soup to simmer, then cook uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and season to taste with black pepper and salt as needed.
- Finishing the soup: Pour olive oil into large saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add shrimp and sage and cook, tossing often, until shrimp is just cooked through, pink, and opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Cut shrimp into smaller pieces and place in bowls. Ladle soup over shrimp and serve.