October has been packed with cooking classes celebrating our fall harvest. As I watch the warm weather quickly slip away into the past tense and hear talk of holiday preparations, I feel especially nostalgic about these garden crops that made up this month’s menu.
Due to an overwhelming response to this Harvest class, I ended up doing three in the course of a week! However, with different guests adding a new flavour to each class, it never did get old.
The menu started with a beautiful slivered root vegetable salad, tossed in a lemon and herb vinaigrette over feisty arugula, with local bacon crumbled on top. Having just received my pork order, part of which was sent to European Meats to get smoked, I was only too happy to include bacon in two of the courses! (Later I stuff it into twice baked potatoes) Another fun aspect of this salad was the addition of yellow beets. Delivered by Sleepy G Farms located out by Pass Lake, these little beauties are just as intense in colour as the red beets, but a mustard yellow. Slivered very thinly and marinated in dressing, beets and even rutabaga can be eaten (and enjoyed!) raw.
The second course was one of my popular lunch menu items, a blended gingered squash soup. I used a banana squash for this one, which caused some confusion as it was titled, “roasted banana squash soup” making it sound like I roast bananas in there as well. Even with my constant need to experiment, I don’t think I would go that far:) The banana squash is usually big and ugly looking, but is dense and sweet like a butternut squash and is perfect for soup. Heck, if you’re out of pumpkin, I’m sure you could bake with these as well!
The main course used pickerel from the local Fish Shop, cooked en papillote, very fun. Stuffed potatoes with gouda from Thunder Oaks and some sweet and crunchy garden carrots from Sleepy G Farms sautéed in honey butter.
Finally, dessert! Pumpkin crème brûlée, starting with a real pie pumpkin, some cream and some eggs. Oh, and lots of sugar! I had invested in a kitchen torch, so I could whip it out for these sort of occasions. For a while it sat unused in my cupboard until I finally found some butane fluid at the “smoke shop”… now I’m trying to think of more things that I can use it for! If you don’t have a kitchen torch, you can find it at Home Outfitters for $30.00. Or… you can simply broil instead. But it’s not as cool.
Anyways, I will include this recipe, as it is ever so delicious.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
In a medium saucepan, heat the cream, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until it comes to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse at least 15 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the granulated sugar. Whisking constantly, gradually pour in the hot cream mixture. Whisk in the pumpkin puree. Pour the mixture into 4 ovenproof ramekins and arrange in a hot water bath. Bake in the center of the oven until almost set but still a bit soft in the center, 30 to 40 minutes. The custard should “shimmy” a bit when you shake the pan; it will firm up more as it cools. Remove from the water bath and let cool 15 minutes. Tightly cover each ramekin with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic does not touch the surface of the custard. Refrigerate at least 2 hours, and up to 24 hours.
When ready to serve, uncover the chilled custards. Pour as much coarse sugar as will fit onto the top of 1 of the custards. Pour off the remaining sugar onto the next custard. Repeat until all the custards are coated. Discard any remaining sugar. Fire up your kitchen torch and flame evenly until sugar is melted and caramel in colour. Let cool 1 minute before serving.
The pics I’m going to include are a selection taken from all three of the October Harvest classes. Enjoy! And keep your eyes peeled for my next class, a creative take on a festive meal!