I won’t lie to you; fall is a very difficult time of year for us bakers. It’s not that I don’t like apples, pears, quince, and apples and pears, but it’s always sad to see summer fruits like peaches, nectarines and the line-up of strawberry baskets disappear from the markets. And I know I’m not the only one to see stone fruits go, as there’s even a variety of peach called “Last Chance” that gives you fair notice that it’s truly the end of the line.
I was lamenting the end of summer (and fall, apparently, judging from abrupt arrival of our brisk weather) to a French friend who said that fall was all about l’espoir, which struck me as kind of odd since ‘hope’ isn’t a topic that’s often on the agenda around here.
In France, big, hulking pumpkins (potirons) are sold at the outdoor markets. No one would think of buying a whole one—if you made a big circle with your arms, you can get a pretty good idea of how big they are. (And besides, one would not fit in my elevator with me. I can barely get in there with my always bulging market basket as it is.)
So they’re conveniently cut and sold in manageable, and liftable, tranches (slices) and are wonderful cubed and roasted with branches of fresh herbs and olive oil, or whirled up into a quick soup.
I realized something a few years ago: the best method for cooking most vegetables is oven roasting—although grilling runs a close second, and would probably be #1 if I had a grill. So I oven roast everything from butternut squash to zucchini. Pumpkin and potimarron are especially great candidates for roasting because they don’t get limp and depending on the variety, and your oven, you can get a nice caramelized crust.
The name potimarron designates a liaison between pumpkin and chestnut (marron) since the flesh has a rich, burnished flavor that is surprisingly reminiscent of roasted chestnuts. Aside from multitasking as two complimentary flavors, another bonus is that the skin is edible. On few occasions, it might not soften all that much during baking, but I eat it anyways. (Although if you’re the dainty type and it’s too firm for you, you’re welcome to only eat the flesh, as long as you keep your pinky extended.)
But since the flesh of the potimarron is narrower than other pumpkins, you’d lose a lot of the flesh if you tried to peel the skin away and you may as well save yourself some time and frustration and roast it with the skin on. Depending on where you live, these might be called either Hokkaido or Kuri squash. (Kuri mean ‘chestnut’ in Japanese.) They come in all sizes and you never know where one might turn up: the small one I’m cradling in the picture I found in the compost heap of Patrick Roger’s vegetable garden.
The frugal amongst us—and you know who we are…—might be tempted to save the seeds and roast them off, but I tried them once and found the shells really too tough. But I guess the bonus for losing the seeds is you get to eat the skin, so it somehow all evens out.
I’m not certain when the end of the season is, or if I should just wait for Dernier chance potimarron to show up at the market, because I don’t know how long they’ll be available here. But I assume they’ll be around at least a few more months, one can always hope. Or at least I can.
There really isn’t any need for a specific recipe for roasting potimarrion; simply wash the outside well, dry it, then cut it in half with a large knife. (Be careful as the round shape can make it move around a bit.) Once halved, use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds.
Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC) and drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. You can use a non-stick sheet one or line the pan with parchment paper for easier clean up.
Sprinkle with coarse or sea salt and black or chili pepper. Other additions can include some thinly sliced garlic; fresh thyme, rosemary or sage; or cinnamon and brown sugar or maple syrup, replacing the olive oil with butter.
Slice the potimarron into crescents about the width of your thumb and toss them in the olive oil and other ingredients on the baking sheet. They should be in a single layer. (If you have a lot, roast them on two trays, or refrigerate the rest for another day.)
Roast the slices on the lower rack of the oven for 20 to 30 minutes, flipping them midway during baking, until they’re cooked to your liking.
Once roasted, the slices can be served warm, and any leftovers can be used in dishes like a Roasted Root Vegetable Salad and Wheat Berry Salad, Farro Salad, or in place of the butternut squash in Israeli Couscous Salad with Preserved Lemons.
Soupe de potimarron (Chez Pim)
Sweet and Spicy Roasted Kabocha Squash (Just Hungry)
Roasted Hokkaido Squash Soup (Méla’s Kitchen)
Pumpkin Butter (Hedonia)
Hokkaido Squash and Celery Root Tart (La Tartine Gourmand)
Warm Hokkaido Squash and White Bean Salad (Chocolate & Zucchini)
Toasted Pumpkin Seeds (Simply Recipes)
Kuri Squash Corn Muffins (Spicie Foodie)
Spicy Sweet Pumpkin Seeds (A Veggie Venture)
Potimarron Soup (Chez Loulou)