PUMPED UP Douglas Brown, the 29-year-old executive chef of Dallas’ Melrose Hotel and its Landmark restaurant, has some great pumpkin ideas for fall as well as tips for cooking with the real thing. His recipe for pumpkin gnocchi with apple-cider brown bbutter and pumpkin seeds takes this orange relative of the gourd to a whole new level.
How do you pick out a good cooking pumpkin?
Make sure it’s nice and firm and look for a bright orange color. I use very small pumpkins, about the size of softballs, because they seem meatier and richer in flavor.
What are some creative things to do with the parts you’re not using in a recipe?
We take the flesh of the pumpkin and grind it in a food processor, then spread it out, dry it, and grind it in a coffee-bean grinder. That gives you an intense, sweet pumpkin “dust” that can be sprinkled on fish, meat, or a salad. One small pumpkin will yield a quarter cup, which can be stored at room temperature in a plastic container for a couple of weeks.
Do you use the skin?
No, peel the pumpkin with a knife.
What do you do with the seeds?
Rinse, dry, and toast them in the oven, then grind them or chop them rough. They can be used as a garnish, or you can make candied pumpkin seeds by mixing them with a little brown sugar and butter.
Which spices complement pumpkin?
All the fall spices such as ginger and nutmeg work really well. I’m also drawn to a nice brown butter, for its nutty flavor.
What goes well with the gnocchi?
At the restaurant we do braised veal cheeks, but you can serve it with any kind of dark, rich braised meat, like leg of lamb.
Is canned pumpkin ever okay?
Use a fresh pumpkin unless you’re making a pie. For anything else, don’t be intimidated. Just treat it like a butternut squash with a slightly different flavor.