Monday, October 20, 2008
Pumpkin + Chicken
This is what happens when I start pretending that I have any sort of avante garde plating skills or recipe ideas. Actually, this one wasn't so bad, but I'm still almost embarrassed to share it. But I'm sharing it anyway.
I asked three people this evening a simple question: "pumpkin + chicken. Thoughts?" Two of them informed me that it didn't sound like such a hot idea to them. One of them responded with, "umm... fajitas?" Clearly, he wasn't opposed to the idea.
Why were the other two so resistant to the idea? Okay, let me give you a partial phrase and have you fill in the blanks. Pumpkin... pie, right? Or pumpkin bread. And that's pretty much it. It's a shame, really. Have we forgotten that pumpkin is a squash? Squash is almost always cooked as a savory dish, not sweet. So keeping that in mind, let me ask you: pumpkin + chicken. Thoughts?
For the past few weeks, I've had part of a dish in my mind. It involves a smear of some kind of pumpkin sauce on the plate, with chile-rubbed chicken on top of it. Unfortunately, that's not much of a dish. It needs something else. So I thought I'd give it a try this evening.
For my pumpkin sauce, I went with pretty much equal parts pumpkin puree and coconut milk. I spiked it with some chipotle powder, and then added some "pumpkin pie spices" that I've used before in savory dishes: ginger and allspice. I think I might have added a touch of cinnamon too, but I've also had that in savory dishes (mostly Greek). The resulting sauce was kind of like a spicy, liquid pumpkin pie. Not quite what I was after. It was also a little thick. More coconut milk next time. In fact, thinking about this in retrospect, I kept thinking about Thai flavors that might go well. Maybe a touch of soy sauce, a splash of fish sauce, and probably a dab of curry paste. That might work well.
The chicken was prepared my favorite way: rubbed with olive oil and chile powder and sauteed. Actually, lately I've been using this cajun blend that a buddy of mine picked up for me from the House of Blues in Chicago. Very garlicky, very good. I sauteed it, added a couple of splashes of Worcestershire sauce, and when it looked like the outside was getting too hot while the inside wasn't done yet, I added some chicken stock to the pan to cool things down a little and intensify the flavors. When the liquid was evaporated, I removed the chicken and let it rest.
I wiped the pan clean with a paper towel and added diced pumpkin, both red and green bell peppers and some corn to some more oil, and kicked up the heat. I seasoned with salt, pepper, more chile powder and after it picked up some color, some Worcestershire sauce. It was just a basic veg medley, and that really was the problem. It was boring. The pumpkin tasted just like another squash.
I plated up anyway, and it was a decent dish. I really need to work on my plate design, but it wasn't too bad. The chicken was seasoned and cooked perfectly. Believe it or not, it actually worked really well with the pumpkin sauce, but I still felt it tasted a little sweet, despite the lack of sugar. The veggies, as I said, were boring. They were greatly improved by getting some pumpkin sauce on them as well, and that's bad. They should have been able to stand on their own.
Thoughts in retrospect: the pumpkin sauce really needed to be more savory. Something in the neighborhood of panang curry might work really well. And to compliment that, I think cooking the chicken kai yang style would be really appropriate. But then we're back to the veggies.
My first thought went like this: pour all the veggies in a Pyrex dish. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, bacon, and give it some time in the oven getting all caramelized and good. Then pull it out and serve it with a sprinkle of feta. Now that would be good. And it also would have little to no relation to the Thai flavors in the rest of the dish.
I haven't decided yet what to do with the veg. And I'm ever conscious of the fact that this dish included no starch. Also, I need to find different plates. I love the black triangles, but they're just not big enough for an entree. Better suited for dessert. Kind of ironic, since that's what America seems to think of pumpkin as well.
Posted by Joseph at 8:54 PM