This is not a delicate pumpkin pie. It is pie that walks the line between sweet and savory, dessert and main dish; a pastry that you might be tempted to call a meal. It is also (as a lifelong fan of pumpkin pie) the best version I've ever tasted. I made it the first year I grew 'sweet meat' squash - a variety that was developed in Oregon in the early 1900's for its ability to produce meaty, well-storing squash in our relatively cool growing season - and I've never gone back. I have a sweet tooth, you see, but also an aversion to empty calories. This pie is the ultimate answer: a pie that entertains you like a dessert but feeds you like a steak.
'Sweet meat' is perfect for pie because of its clean-tasting flesh - lacking the grassy bitter flavors some find so off-putting in winter squash - and saturated sweetness. Indeed, some individual 'sweet meats' are so sweet you barely need to add sugar. However, any squash or pie pumpkin will do. This recipe takes variable squash sweetness into account - let your own taste be your guide when deciding how much sugar to add.
Since this pie is not about the crust (in fact, its author, Carol Deppe, recommends going without), I leave that part up to you. If you enjoy making crust, use your best recipe. If you don't, save yourself the trouble and use something pre-made.
Makes one 9-inch pie
3 cups baked, mashed winter squash meat
1 cup duck eggs (or chicken)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 - 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or make your own blend with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and a pinch of clove)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pie dough
2. Combine the squash and 1/2 cup of the brown sugar. Taste, adding more sugar until it's as sweet as you like it. Stir in the spice mix, vanilla, and salt. In a small bowl, briefly beet the duck eggs to "scramble," then add to the squash mixture and beat with a mixer on low for a few seconds. Add the cream and blend everything into a smooth batter.
3. Preheat the oven to 350-degrees. Line a 9-inch glass pie pan with the crust dough, crimp the edges, and weight (if you don't have pie weights, a layer of parchment or foil topped with an inch-thick layer of dry beans works just as well). Bake the dough for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are just starting to turn golden.
4. While the crust is baking, pre-warm the batter by placing the bowl with the squash mixture inside another bowl filled with hot water, stirring occasionally. Refresh the hot water and continue stirring now and then until the squash mixture is lukewarm. This shortens the baking time and helps to insure that the edges and the center of the pie cook more evenly. Pour mixture into the crust shell, stopping when the filling gets within a quarter of and inch from the top of the crust, to allow room for expansion.
5. Place the pie pan in the center of the oven and bake 45-55 minutes, until the filling puffs up like a cake, from the edges to the center, and has a thin golden crust over the top. Remove from oven and place on a rack to cool. Store in the refrigerator until serving. This pie tastes best after a day of rest, meaning you can check it off the list the day before Thanksgiving.
Based on a recipe from The Resilient Gardener, by Carol Deppe.