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Squash Court


SCENE 1
Puppet Show

GUEST: Puppet Peter and Puppet Wife
            Puppet Alton

PUPPET ALTON: [voice over] Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater had a wife and couldn't keep her. So, he put her in a pumpkin shell and there he kept her very well. And since hard squashes contain high concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and beta-carotene, she lasted a couple of months.

PUPPET WIFE: What? You better let me out of here!
PUPPET PETER: What? Good enough for Cinderella but not good enough for you?
PW: At least she met a prince.
PP: Why I ought a ...
PA: Whatever, kids. The pumpkin is not the only magical gourd in the valley. There's the acorn squash, the buttercup, the delicata, the hubbard.

PP: Hey. Hubbard. Sounds like another nursery rhyme.
PA: Maybe for you, but to me it just sounds like ... [curtain falls with Good Eats on the front].

SCENE 2
The Kitchen

    When cooking with hard or winter squashes, one must reckon with the bowling ball principle which states that when dealing with foods that are exceedingly hard and unwieldy, one should use a knife as little as possible. In fact, when it comes to hard squash I like to keep my good cutlery safely slotted and reach instead for very inexpensive Asian style vegetable clever. Okay?
    Now approach your squash. And the first thing to do is to make sure that it's stable on the cutting board. If it's not, you're going to have to take a little slice off of the bottom. This looks pretty good to me. Now take your blade and place it right over the center. Then tap [with another item such as a wooden mallet]. There. No fingers damaged. Now I like to split this again—quarter it. There. And one more. I like to quarter not only because it's easier to cook but it's a lot easier to seed. You'll notice that there are a lot of seeds and they're held together with some really kind of nasty looking, alien membrane kind of things. It's really tough to get out of there. I like to use an ice cream scoop, the kind that's got the sharp little edge there. Just reach in and scoop it out. But don't throw these away. Just like pumpkins, these seeds can be laid out and roasted and added to a lot of dishes which we will get to shortly.

    Now that we are split and polished, we're ready to meet the heat. Just brush or spritz with butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Besides holding on to the seasonings, the butter's going to brown while the squash roasts. And that's going to bring a, a nice color and nutty flavor to the party. Go for 400 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes or until done. We'll get to that later.

1 Kobocha Squash
Quartered & Seeded

Melted Butter or Olive Oil

Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper

400° for 20-25 minutes

      Aside from enhancing the flavor via caramelization, there's another advantage to roasting squash. It softens the meat enough to transform easily into a myriad of applications without having to rent a jack hammer to get the meat out.

    This is why—with the possible exception of spaghetti squash, which really do perform better in the microwave—I like to roast all hard squash regardless of type, size or culinary application.

Spaghetti Squash

    Now these squash would make a really, really great side dish, but if we had roasted two of them, we'd be talking soup.

2 Roasted Squash

    [voice over] This procedure calls for 6 cups of cooked squash meat so just take your ice cream scoop and go to work. Pile that up in an index container. Of course it's kind of tough to read something like this by volume and be accurate. So what I like to do is use displacement. I add a cup and a half of chicken stock. Just pour it right in. You're going to need 3 total, but we'll save the rest for later. And then take your potato masher to it. Work out all the bubbles. Make sure that you've got all the little cavities out of there. Then read it. You know if you've got seven and a half cups total, six cups of that is squash.

6 Cups Roasted Squash

1 1/2 Cups Chicken Stock

    Now the squash mixture goes into a large pot. Just use a rubber spatula to dig that out. There. Any remnants will be rinsed out with the rest of the chicken stock. Just rinse and, well, you know. There.

Remaining 1 1/2 Cups
Chicken Stock

    Next up, 4 tablespoons of honey. Any variety will do. And one teaspoon of grated, fresh, ginger. Now this will be very easy for you to produce if you use a microplane grater. If you lent yours to your neighbor, you're probably going to have to use a box grater. And as we all know, well, it's hard to get the ginger in the soup when you can't get it off the grater. Of course if you had wrapped your grater in two layers of plastic wrap nice and tight, you'd be able to do this.

4 Tbs. Honey

1 tsp. Grated Fresh Ginger

    [voice over] Now, of course the trick here is to only do this on the small perforated side or what some folks call the "star" cut side with the metal punches outward. If you tried to do this on the regular grating side, you're going to end up with pieces of plastic in your ginger. But this way, you come off completely clean and you probably won't even have to wash the grater.

    Bring this to a bare boil over medium-high heat. And remember, high viscosity plus high sugar content equals easy burning so remember to stir every couple of minutes.

Medium-High Heat

    By the time you see bubble break, odds are good the squash will have disintegrated into perfectly palatable little pieces. If not, well, we've got the technology to take care of that. [gets his stick blender] Yep, there's nothing like a spinning piece of steel ripping through hot, sticky ... it's starting to sound a little dangerous, isn't it? You know what we really need here is a, is a shield of some sort, some kind of protection. I'm thinking maybe a, I'm thinking maybe an old Frisbee with a hole cut in it and a slot so you can just kind of go like that. [places hole of Frisbee around the stick blender] That's what I'm thinking. Safety first.

Kobocha

Especially good in soup.

Spaghetti Squash

Scoop, season and serve.

Delicata

Simply bake
for best results.

[Pictures courtesy of The Cook's Thesaurus. For more squash information, click here.]

SCENE 3
The Kitchen

    Perfect. Now we'll just find whatever neighborhood kid's missing his Frisbee.

    Now we add in the final layer of ingredients. We've got half a cup of heavy cream, and it does need to be heavy because there's not much of it. And while we're at it, add about three big pinches of kosher salt and some pepper ... now, wait a second. Black specs in a nice orange soup. Why don't we break down and break out the white pepper. Of course it's really, finely ground so you're not going to have to use much. Two small pinches. Very fragrant stuff.

1/2 Cup Heavy Cream

3 Big Pinches Kosher Salt

2 Small Pinches Finely Ground White Pepper

    Last but now least, nutmeg. And I have to tell you, I've had this one for almost two years now, okay? And still tastes really, really great. Use the powder stuff and in six months it tastes like saw dust and not even saw dust from a nutmeg tree. So, just put your micro-plane grater over it and let's say six nice big grates. That's probably about a quarter teaspoon I'd say. Smells great. And stir to combine. Bring this back to just a simmer over medium heat.

1/4 tsp. Grated Fresh Nutmeg

    A dollop of sour cream and a little sprinkling of crystallized ginger finishes this off nicely. And of course the beverage of choice, ginger ale. Now there will be some small differences in flavor but you can do this dish with any hard squash around, even that one [pumpkin with an Alton image carved on it]. Good looking pumpkin.

Canned pumpkin was introduced in 1929.

    If you were to take, say, a small, oh, one pound butternut squash, cut it in half, slather it up with a little olive oil, sprinkle on some salt and pepper and put it in your three hundred and seventy-five degree oven for, say, 45 minutes, you would produce for yourself a very fine side dish for almost any meal. But if you were to also bake, say, 4 russet potatoes, well, then we'd be talking about something entirely different. We'd be talking about making dumplings.

Butternut Squash

4 Baked Russet Potatoes

    "Dumplings from squash," you say? Well, sure. I mean, dumplings are mostly starch, right? And these things are mostly starch as well. The key, though, is that to, to make a dough out of these we've got to work it with the right temperature, okay? They can't be fresh out of the oven but they can't be too cool, either, or the starch inside them will, will gelatinize and get hard. That's a bad thing. So, what we're going to do we're going to let the steam out, let them cool down a little bit, but not too much. So, we're going to just poke some holes in the spuds and then we're going to open it up. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop.

    Now we'll let those blow of a little steam while we amass the rest of our software starting with one lone chicken egg. To that we are going to add a little bit of flavoring, namely nutmeg. It's squash's favorite friend, I swear. Just a bit grated right on to the egg. Less than a pinch, even. Perfect, I'd say. We're going to go ahead and beat this lightly. Now the egg is really important, even just one of them because it provides both fat and protein. And the protein is especially important if the starch is going to have any structure.

1 Egg

Less than A Pinch of Nutmeg

    Of course it's going to take even a little more starch in the form of all-purpose flour. You're going to need about a cup and a half for the dumplings themselves and another, say, cup for the work surface. We're also going to need ... [kosher salt]. But then we've always got that around, don't we?

1 1/2 Cup AP Flour
+
1 Cup
For Work Surface

20 minutes later

    Anyone who has ever overworked mashed potatoes will tell you that there's a very thin line between light and fluffy and gummy and nasty. That's because there's a very thin line between a nice, ripe, plump, starch granule and one that's [raspberry] been blown to pieces. So you want to treat this mixture—the squash and potatoes, that is—with as little violence as possible, just till it looks, well, like that.
   Now you can go ahead and switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the egg mixture and about half of the flour. It's going to be about three quarters of a cup. Why hold back? Well, the flour's really there to counteract the moisture in the squash and potatoes. And since those are agricultural products that have been cooked, there's really not any way to know how much it's going to take. So just work it in in bits. If we need more, we can always add it later. Did I mention now it would be a really good time to put on a gallon of water to boil?

    Heavily salted, I might add.

1 Gallon Of Water

    There. I've got it all in and I'd say that's still a bit on the wet side. So I'm going to work in just about another tablespoon. I still want it to be a little bit wet because when we roll this out on the counter top we're going to do it on flour and it's going to take up some then. If we get it too dry here [in the bowl], it'll just make rolling out very difficult. There. That looks pretty good. Now it's time to clear the board.

Butternut Squash

 

Big flavor
without the fat.

Acorn Squash

Most flavorful are about 5" long, and 6"-8" in diameter.

Turban      A sweet squash with hints of hazelnut.

[Pictures courtesy of The Cook's Thesaurus. For more squash information, click here.]

SCENE 4
The Kitchen

    Since this procedure can be a little messy, I like to go with full frontal coverage [dons a apron], if you know what I mean. And make sure that you've got as much room as possible to work with. And if you've got just a small counter use the counter, don't use a cutting board. It'll, it'll never work. Next thing, cover this with just a little bit of flour. But try to make it a very even coverage. Kind of throw it like you're planting seeds. There. Now we're going to turn out this entire mass right into the middle. And dust the top with flour. Kind of think of this as a big ball of biscuit dough. Don't think of it as potatoes and squash. It's not. It's an actual dough.

    Okay. When you get it into a ball, grab your dough blade—you can use just a regular knife, but a dough blade's nice—and divide this into half, okay? And then each one of those gets balled up and split again. So now we're talking about quarters, right? Each one of these gets balled up and guess what. Divided again. So that you end up with eight pieces that are basically the same size. One two, three four, five six, seven eight. If they're not perfect, that's okay.

8 Even Pieces

    Now just set these off to the side and we'll work them one at a time. You could do this as one big mass but believe me it would be a little too much for you. Now this dough, it's pretty, pretty smooth so I'm not going to try and get a lot more flour into it. What you want to do is very gently roll it into a snake shape. I'm really just applying pressure with my two middle fingers, okay? That's what's actually doing the pushing. The point is to try to get it nice and long and about half an inch thick without actually breaking it. You're going to have to make your moves more and more gentle the longer you get. And it if does break, just stick it back together. Believe me, it's no big deal.

    Now I guess that's about what? About 2 feet long. That's about right. Now take your dough blade and just cut these into about half inch long pieces. Keep flour on it [dough blade]. Notice that I like to kind of like to go down and out a little bit. That way it doesn't stick. Now these [cut up pieces] can either be taken straight to the pot for cooking or you could put them all onto a flour coated sheet pan, freeze them for about 5 hours, then put them in a zip top bag and freeze them for use sometime later in this century.

1/2" Long Pieces

    When you're ready to cook you want to do it in batches. No more than about two dozen at a time. They really do need room to move around in there. Now when they hit the water they're going to sink. But as they cook the water inside the dumplings is going to expand and turn into steam. That's going to make them less dense than the surrounding water so they're going to float to the surface as soon as they're done. So it's pretty convenient. All you have to do is wait for floaters and then fish them out.

3-4 minutes Later

    As soon as they are done, move these into an ice water bath to halt the cooking process. If you skip this, you're just going to end up with some very nice tasting little pieces of rubber. So once you've got the whole batch cooked and cooled, move them all to a tea towel to dry them off. Then to another container. Now since they can stick together, hit them with a little bit of oil and toss.

    At this point you could go ahead and refrigerate these for up to three days or you can cook them. The serving possibilities are pretty much endless. My favorite is really simple. I just put a small skillet over high heat and when it's really ripping I add about a tablespoon of softened butter. Now it's important to have the butter softened so that you make sure that the first part that melts doesn't burn by the time it's done melting, if you get my drift. Add two sage leaves chopped very, very fine. Just toss that for a second in the butter and then add a cup of very, very dry dumplings. Toss to coat in the butter and then let them fry just turn then slowly every minute or so until they are brown and crunchy all the way around.

1 Tbs. Soft Butter

2 Fresh Sage Leaves,
Chopped Fine

1 Cup Dry Par-Cooked Dumplings

    A little bit of Parmesan cheese, or a lot if you're like me. Grate on some pepper and you've got a pretty fantastic meal. And of course you can do this with any hard squash you like. [camera pans over to pumpkin] Augh! All right! You want pumpkin? I'm going to give you pumpkin.

   Like its cousin, the zucchini, pumpkin makes excellent bread, especially if you can get your hands on a smaller, more immature specimens. It all starts by turning your hot box to 350 degrees. Then use either a box grater or the shredding disk on a food processor to turn this [pumpkin] into this [shredded pumpkin]. You're going to need three cups and that'll probably take about half of a small pumpkin. We're going to set this aside, but I don't want it to dry out. So I'm just going to push a piece wet paper towel on top of it. Time to face the dry goods.

350°

3 Cups Shredded
Fresh Pumpkin

 

Pumpkin      The most famous winter squash.
Hubbard

The largest of the winter squash.

Red Kuri

In a cool, dry place, this winter squash keeps for a month +.

[Pictures courtesy of The Cook's Thesaurus. For more squash information, click here.]

SCENE 5
The Kitchen

    Two cups of all-purpose flour, two teaspoons of ground cinnamon, half a teaspoon of kosher salt, one teaspoon of baking soda, and a quarter teaspoon of baking powder. There's no questioning where this loaf will get its lift.

2 Cups AP Flour
2 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Baking Powder

    The wet works begins with three chicken eggs, beaten lightly. I never, ever work with eggs—in a batter at least—without beating them first. You just never get good integration. So as soon as those kind of homogenize, you can slowly pour in a cup and a half of sugar. Now oddly enough, sugar is usually treated as a wet ingredient in professional baking recipes because of its ability to lighten things like eggs and like butter. Just beat that in nice and slow until it makes a smooth paste.

3 Eggs

1 1/2 Cups Sugar

    Now as soon as you don't see much in the way of graininess any more, slowly trickle in three quarters of a cup of vegetable oil. Trickle it in just like you were making a salad dressing, very slowly. It's almost like making an emulsion. Last but not least a good heavy teaspoon of vanilla extract. And need I tell you the better the extract, the better the bread's going to be. Perfect.

3/4 Cups Vegetable Oil

1 tsp. Vanilla Extract

    Oh, and go ahead and toast yourself a cup of pumpkin seeds at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes.

Bake 1 Cup at 400°
For 5 Minutes

    Since this is technically a quick bread, how we bring all these things together really matters because as soon as the wet stuff hits the dry chemical leavening, it's going to activate and start producing bubbles. We want to hold that off for as long as possible. So I'm going to fold everything into the wet stuff first: the pumpkin and the pumpkin seeds. Under ordinary circumstances I'd pour the wet stuff onto the dry stuff. But this is really, really thick and if we did, it'd probably leave little pockets in the bottom. It'd be tough. So I'm going to add the dry on top of the wet this time. You just want to fold this enough to bring it together. You don't want to mix it anymore than necessary. There. Just brought together.

    Now this goes [batter] goes into a non-stick loaf pan and into ... into the middle of a three hundred and twenty-five degree oven for about an hour and fifteen minutes or until the point of a paring knife inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Ah. Good and good for you.

9"x5"x3"

75 Minutes At 325°

15 Minutes Later

    Counter cool your loaf for 15 minutes. Then turn it out onto a rack and let it cool for another hour. Okay. That's going to allow the starches to firm up so that when you cut into it, it won't fall apart.
    You like muffins? No problem. The very same amount of mix in muffin tins in a 325 degree oven for 30 minutes will buy ya these. [curtain falls with Good Eats on it]

The Mexican favorite, Pepitas are hulled
pumpkin seeds, usually roasted and salted.

SCENE 6
Puppet Show

PA: Peter, Peter, Hard Squash Cooker had a wife who was ...
PW: ... a real looker!
PA: Yeah, all the vitamin A and potassium was doing her wonders. That beta-carotene, complex carbs, folic acid, pantothentic acid and vitamin C weren't hurting either. And since it contains so much fiber, Peter was feeling much less, well, grumpy. Best of all, the food was so delicious, Mrs. Pumpkin Eater didn't even want to leave the house. And so all's well that ends well on another episode of ... [curtain falls with Good Eats on the front].


Proofreading Help from Sue Libretti

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010