My sister recently hosted a dinner party and, since I was visiting, I suggested that I cook it so that she could be a full-time hostess rather than in and out of the kitchen throughout the evening. Admittedly, it speaks to my personal tastes, but nowadays there are so many things that people can't or won't eat, that I have found making a vegetarian meal gets rid of having to make the many dietary accommodations required when hosting a group. I have had no complaints as of yet. Then again, I am not the kind of near vegetarian who believes in Quorn or processed fake meat cutlets that one needs to find a way to mask when cooking them. In my world, vegetables shine in their own right, and one uses more butter than one should for dinner parties.
These pumpkin dumplings, served with roasted autumn vegetables, were the main course of the above mentioned dinner party * and were, if I say so myself, absolutely delicious. They are a bit labor intensive and will use more pans that you might want to consider for a dinner party, but well worth it. And you can make everything in advance and reheat each element in its own little foil packet ** while you eat your appetizer before combining them in a serving platter.
This is not one of my usual recipes for one person and will serve 8 people generously, with dumplings left over for a solitary and well deserved meal the next day. If making it for one, make the full dumpling recipe and freeze the excess for future meals. Roast only as many fall vegetables as you need for that portion of the dumplings. In hindsight, if I make this again, I may add halved Brussels sprouts to the dish a) for a bit of texture and b) for an additional fall color on the plate.
For the dumplings:
2 cups of pumpkin purée (either homemade or plain from a can, NOT the pumpkin spice for pie variety of purée)
1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 cup tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
2 1/2 cups flour
1/8 tsp cumin
4 Tbsps of butter
2 cloves of garlic, unpeeled but crushed
Salt to taste
Put a large pot of water on to boil. Add salt as you would for pasta.
While the water is heating up, mix the pumpkin purée, onion, tarragon, egg, flour and some salt together in a large bowl. You want to distribute the tarragon and onion throughout the dough.
The end result will be a rather sticky dough. Wetting your hands each time, shape it into golf ball sized dumplings.
By now your water should be boiling. Working in batches, I found 7 to be the easiest batch size with which to work for some reason, poach the dumplings, gently stirring the water until they rise to the surface of the water and remain there. This should take about five to seven minutes.
As they cook set them aside to drain on a paper towel lined baking tray or large plate.
Once they are dry, quarter them so that they are roughly the size of the butternut squash pieces that you are roasting.
Melt half the butter in a large skillet along with one of the garlic cloves. Pan fry half the dumplings over medium heat, turning often, until they are crispy on all sides, about five minutes. Repeat with the remaining half, using the remaining butter and garlic clove. Remove the garlic cloves and set aside until needed.
This can either be mixed in with the roasted vegetables immediately or, as mentioned above, made that afternoon and placed in foil to be reheated prior to eating.
For the autumn vegetables:
2 lbs butternut squash, cubed
1 red onion, peeled, halved and cut into thin crescent moons
1 radicchio, cored and separated into individual leaves
1 punnet shiitake mushrooms
1 punnet trumped mushrooms
1 punnet oyster mushrooms
1 head garlic, halved lengthwise
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
4 Tbsps butter
4 Tbsps olive oil
1 Tbsps dry white wine or dry white Vermouth
1 cup whole tarragon leaves
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 425.
Place the butternut squash on a lined baking tray and toss with two tablespoons of the oil and some salt and pepper. Add the two halves of the head of garlic to the edge of the pan and drizzle with one tablespoon of the remaining oil and a bit of salt. Place in the oven and roast for 25 minutes, shaking the pan at the half way mark to redistribute the pieces of squash to ensure even cooking and adding the red onion at this time. Shake the pan further to combine.
Toss the radicchio leaves in the remaining tablespoon of oil and add to the baking tray containing the cooking squash five minutes before the squash is supposed to come out of the oven. Stir to combine it with the roasting squash and onion and leave to bake for five minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.
While the vegetables are roasting, prep the mushrooms. Clean away all tough stems, wipe all of the mushrooms well and wash any gritty ones. Half the larger ones.
Melt the butter in a large skillet along with the chopped garlic before adding all of the mushrooms. Cook for about five minutes over medium-low, until the mushrooms have released most of their liquid. Raise the temperature to high and add the Vermouth. Cook, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated or been reabsorbed by the mushrooms. Add 1/3 cup of the tarragon leaves, liberal amounts of salt and pepper and stir to combine before removing from the heat. Set aside until needed.
Mix the vegetables together, squeezing the garlic clove halves from their skins first, and toss with the crisped up dumplings.
Top with the remaining tarragon leaves and toss at table to distribute the herb throughout the dish.
* For those interested in the full dinner party menu, it consisted of:
A lovely Brie served with roasted grapes and rosemary crackers at the coffee table when guests arrived, followed by an appetizer of a spinach and avocado salad with warm honey-mustard dressing, this recipe as a main course and a roasted apple and apple cider tiramisu with Bourbon whipped cream for dessert.
** If you make the various elements in advance, place your foil packets in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes before combining and serving.