Not Gordon Hamersley.
When Hamersley, chef-owner of Hamersley’s Bistro in Boston’s South End, sees that ubiquitous member of the squash family, he envisions a light salad of diced pickled pumpkin over frisée lettuce; a savory soup of pureed roasted pumpkin, sautéed onions and apples, and curry; or a hearty entrée of roasted pumpkin with lentils and wheat berries in a pool of Romesco sauce (pureed red peppers, nuts, herbs, and olive oil) and topped with goat cheese and hazelnuts.
Hamersley whipped up those three dishes one fall morning in his restaurant’s open kitchen. As 45-gallon pots of veal and chicken stock simmered on the burners, the chef sliced the top off a small, perfectly round sugar pumpkin, cut the orb in half, and scooped out the seeds and string.
“Getting a pumpkin to do what you want is somewhat labor-intensive,” says Hamersley (CGS’71, SED’74), “but it’s not rocket science. If anything, pumpkin wrestling is what it’s all about. You’ve got to be a little bit careful how you go about using your knife. But generally speaking, it’s pretty easy.”
Sugar pumpkins, small and round, are high in sugar content and are especially good for cooking. Hamersley says the pumpkin varieties he likes include the Pik-a-Pie, a standard sugar pumpkin that’s small and easy to carve and cook, One Too Many, “the orange and white one that looks so pretty,” and the Racer, “which is larger, has a good strong stem, and cooks well.”
“We, as cooks, at Hamersley’s anyway, celebrate those things that define our area—pumpkins, for sure, but not just your average New England sugar pumpkin,” says Hamersley. “There are lots of varieties of squashes, and they all are edible, they all are beautiful, and the things you can do with them are not limited to pie.”