Sona's pumpkin crème brulée is a perfect mixture of seasonality, holiday flare and basic kitchen technique. Sona chef de cuisine Kuniko Yagi makes the custards in little ramekins and sends them out as an amuse-bouche. She tops the little custards with a fine dice of sauteed pumpkin and a few edible flowers, and serves the dish with a bit of tapioca cracker. The custard isn't too sweet, and the cracker provides an added crunch--and swings the dish midway between sweet and savory.
At home, make the custards a little larger (which this recipe calls for) and serve with a quenelle of whipped cream in between rounds of trick-or-treaters this Saturday. Yagi roasts whole pumpkins--or Kabocha or butternut squash--at the restaurant, but says that you can just use canned pumpkin to save time. Or hit the farmers markets, where you'll find all kinds of squash and pumpkins out for the upcoming holiday weekend.
Pumpkin Crème Brulée
Note: From Sona chef de cuisine Kuniko Yagi. You can use purchased pumpkin puree or make your own, using the recipe below.
Makes: about 12
4 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar plus an additional 1/4 cup for the brulée
10 large egg yolks
5 ounces pumpkin puree
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1. Place the cream, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the pumpkin puree into a medium heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Whisk to combine and heat over high heat until it just begins to boil then remove it from the stove.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the other 1/2 cup of sugar with the egg yolks. Temper the egg mixture into the hot pumpkin mixture by adding a third of the egg mixture to the pumpkin mixture, then pouring this back into the bowl with the remaining egg mixture and whisking to combine. Do not whisk too much, so as not to incorporate too much air.
3. Pour the hot mixture through a fine mesh strainer or chinois into a bowl set over an ice bath. Allow the mixture to cool.
4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare ramekins by rubbing them with a little butter, then set the ramekins inside a large metal pan (a hotel pan if you have one) with sides taller than the ramekins.
5. Pour the pumpkin mixture into the ramekins, filling them about 1/2 full. Carefully pour cold water into the pan around the ramekins, so that the water comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the whole pan tightly with foil and carefully set into the middle of the hot oven.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the custard is set around the edges but still jiggly in the center. (The custard will cook a little more as it cools.)
7. When the custards are done, remove them from the oven and from the pan and allow to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the 1/4 cups of sugars together. When the custards are room temperature, sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the top of the custard and torch with a brulée torch (or a blow torch). If you do not have a torch, you can brulée the sugar by placing the ramekins underneath a hot broiler.
Makes: About 8 --10 ounces, depending on the size of the pumpkin.
1/4 of a Kabocha squash, or 1/2 of a butternut squash or a small pumpkin, quartered
1 tablespoon of honey
a pinch of salt
1 cup of warm milk
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking or cookie tray with aluminum foil. Place the pumpkin on the aluminum foil and season with the honey and the salt. Cover the pumpkin with more foil.
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2. Bake the pumpkin for about 40 minutes, or until very tender. (The baking time will vary with the pumpkin.) Allow the pumpkin to cool slightly.
3. Scoop the pumpkin flesh into a blender, add 1/2 cup of the milk and blend
it until smooth, adding additional milk as needed.
4. Press the pumpkin puree through a fine mesh strainer or a chinois and cool before using.