Ana Harrison, Freemans Restaurant
"Growing up in West Texas, it was only really cold for four to six weeks of the year. But during that time, my grandmother would make one of my favorite dishes. She would get a sugar pumpkin, cut it into wedges, and in the biggest pot she had, would poach it in a piloncillo simple syrup [a Mexican kitchen staple that can best be described as dark brown sugar mixed with molasses]. Once it was so soft you could cut it with a spoon, she would serve us a wedge with the syrup and a bit of warm cream as dessert. I grew up to have an almost comical love of all things pumpkin-spiced.
"On the fall menu at Freemans, we are serving spiced pumpkin pancakes with cinnamon whipped cream. Covered with maple syrup, it's almost like I'm sitting at my grandmother's table again."
For the pumpkin spice mix:
6 parts* ground cinnamon
4 parts ground ginger
3 parts ground nutmeg
2 parts teaspoon ground allspice
1 part ground cloves
1 part ground cardamom
*Parts can be any unit of measurement. In the restaurant, we do it by cups. At home, a tablespoon will probably be plenty for a year of pumpkin spice goodness.
For the pancakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar (option to do half white sugar and half dark brown sugar)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice mix (recipe below)
2 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
For the spice mix: Make spice mix by combining all the ingredients.
For the pancakes: Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spice mix.
Separately, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, and pumpkin puree. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mix to incorporate. Fold in melted butter.
Heat griddle or Teflon pan to medium-low heat. Use butter or vegetable spray to oil the pan. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes on each side.
Pancakes can be held in a 300-degree oven for about 20 minutes in order to finish cooking the full batch. Serve with whipped cream or butter and maple syrup.
Piloncillo poached pumpkin
1 small sugar pumpkin
1 piloncillo cone (or 1 cup dark brown sugar and 2 teaspoons molasses)
1 gallon of water
Whole milk or half and half to taste
Pinch of salt
Wash sugar pumpkin well. Cut into wedges, leaving the skin on. Remove the seeds and the fibrous part that attaches to the seeds. Reserve seeds for another use.
In a large pot, heat the piloncillo cone, salt, and the water until it dissolves. Add the pumpkin wedges, taking care not to splash water. There should be plenty of water—if it gets too low, the sugar will start to turn to caramel. Cook over low heat for approximately 2 hours, stirring often and adding water to make sure it doesn't burn. Pumpkin is done when it offers no resistance to a spoon.
To serve, place one or two wedges in a bowl, along with some of the poaching liquid. Add warm milk or cream to taste.