By Cathy Barrow
Special to The Washington Post
When I plan my Thanksgiving menu, I keep its complementary fall colors in mind — the russet and bronze of a roast turkey, the distinct greens of string beans, Brussels sprouts and kale, and the flame oranges and golds of winter squash.
There is great variety in squashes, my favorite fall shape shifter. They pair with curry in one dish and cinnamon streusel in another. For the holiday, I have transformed winter squash into soups, soufflés and stews, but this year I will use it to fill a savory slab pie. It can feed a crowd, be made a day in advance and is served at room temperature. In other words, it is a formidable addition to the side-dish arsenal.
While this vegetarian pie could be made with kabocha or Cinderella or Hubbard squash, I choose the humble butternut.
Look for heavy, unblemished specimens, seeking out those with long necks and bulbous ends that are on the small side, because the bulb's flesh surrounding the seeds tends to be watery and/or stringy. The cylindrical, seedless neck is denser and easier to peel and cube.
Because this recipe calls for a quantity of puree, the smaller and adorably named buttercup squash is too petite to fuss with for this pie.
I am aware that some cooks avoid working with winter squash because its prep can be daunting. Rather than succumb to the pre-cut and often tasteless shrink-wrapped cubes at the store, I have a solution: Poke the squash with a sharp knife in a dozen spots then microwave it until it is fork-tender. Let it cool for a few minutes, and the skin will be easy to remove. The flesh emerges ready to mash and tuck into a pie.
Savory Sesame Butternut Squash Pie
Makes 12 to 15 servings
For a big crowd, this pie may be made in an 18-by-13-inch baking sheet by doubling the recipe.
MAKE AHEAD: Microwave or steam the squash up to 3 days in advance. Bake the gingersnap crust up to 1 day in advance. Both should be kept refrigerated.
For the crust
10 oz (about fifty 11⁄4-inch cookies) gingersnap cookies, crushed into crumbs (about 2 cups)
5 TBS unsalted butter, melted
1⁄4 tsp kosher salt
For the filling
3 lg eggs, separated into whites and yolks
11⁄2 C canned or home-cooked butternut squash puree from one 15-oz can or a 3-lb squash
1 C full-fat coconut milk
1⁄4 C maple syrup
2 TBS unsalted butter, melted
2 TBS white miso
1 TBS peeled, grated fresh ginger root
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
3⁄4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 tsp kosher salt
For the topping
1 C plain full-fat or Greek-style yogurt
2 TBS toasted/roasted sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have a 9-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet (a.k.a. quarter sheet pan) at hand.
Stir together the cookie crumbs, melted butter and salt in a mixing bowl until the crumbs are thoroughly coated. Press them across the bottom of the baking sheet and slightly up the sides using a metal cup measure or the flat bottom of a glass. Bake for 17 minutes to form the crust, which will darken a bit. Let cool.
Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer); beat the egg whites on high speed long enough to form stiff, tall, somewhat dry peaks.
Whisk together the egg yolks, butternut squash puree, coconut milk, maple syrup, butter, miso, ginger, toasted sesame oil, pepper and salt in a large, deep bowl, until smooth. Stir in one-third of the beaten egg whites to lighten the mixture, then swiftly and gently fold in the remaining egg whites; it's okay if some white streaks remain.
Use a light touch to spoon the filling evenly over the crust, encouraging it into the corners. It will just fit. Bake (middle rack) for 40 to 45 minutes, until the filling has browned in spots and a knife inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes.
Use an offset spatula to gently spread the yogurt over the pie, from corner to corner. Sprinkle the sesame seeds generously across the surface.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate any leftovers, then allow them to return to room temperature before serving.
— From columnist and cookbook author Cathy Barrow