I try not to mess with my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. We make the same things every year: slow-roasted turkey with Grandpa’s famous stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, sweet baked yams, my mom’s green bean casserole, and my corn soufflé. If I tried to change anything my family would fire me, if they could. The only thing I’m able to change is dessert. I like pumpkin pie, but it’s fun to change things up.
Last year, right before Thanksgiving, I was traveling through Switzerland and I stopped at a roadside rest for gas (Roadside rests are like little gourmet restaurants that serve espressos, wine, fancy desserts, and cheese). Outside an older gentleman was roasting chestnuts over an open fire—I’m serious. Inside, people were sitting at tiny tables eating something that was a brilliant orange color. It was like a picture out of a travel magazine.
It’s hard to describe the brilliant orange color, but it was “really” orange. In broken French, I asked what it was, and the storeowner led me to a pumpkin sitting on a cart and told me the dessert was tarte à la citrouille. My dream pumpkin was a lime green-greyish color on the outside. She assured me it was bright orange inside. The only disappointing part of the experience was not being able to bring a pumpkin home on the airplane.
In the U.S. the Blue Hokkaido and the “Cinderella” pumpkin also known as Rouge Vif d’ Etampes**are comparable to the pumpkins I saw in Switzerland. Lucky for me (and now you), the shop owner shared her recipe with me. If you are not able to find pumpkins with bright colored flesh you can use buttercup squash or canned pumpkin.
1 frozen puff pastry sheet, thawed
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 small pumpkin with bright orange flesh, or one 15-oz. can 100% pumpkin
3 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. bourbon
Lightly sweetened whipped cream for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Cut pumpkin into several wedges and remove seeds and stringing pulp. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the pumpkin pieces flesh side up. Cover with more foil and bake for 1 hour or until the pumpkin is soft. Cool and scoop out the flesh and mash or pulse with a food processor, until smooth. Set aside.
Roll out the puff pastry on a clean, lightly floured surface. Transfer dough to a round 9-inch tart pan with fluted sides or a 9x13 pan. Lightly press the dough into the bottom of the pan and along the sides. Trim to fit and freeze for at least 15 minutes.
Measure 2 cups of the cooked pumpkin and reserve the remaining pumpkin for another use.
In a large bowl, add the eggs, one at a time, to the pumpkin, until thoroughly incorporated. Add the sugar and salt. Whisk in the heavy cream and bourbon.
Pour the pumpkin mixture into the frozen unbaked tart crust. Bake until the top is just set; about 30-45minutes. Let the tart cool before serving. Serve at room temperature with lightly sweetened whipped cream. Refrigerate any unused portion.
**These pumpkins can be grown here. See your favorite seed catalog or check local farmers markets next fall.