The Sweet and Spicy Better-than-Pumpkin Pie to Make this Thanksgiving

Ditch the dull classic for roasted kabocha with ginger and black pepper

Sweet and Spicy Kabocha Pie

Sweet and Spicy Kabocha Pie
Kabocha, Japanese pumpkin, makes a lighter pie with a vivid orange color. This pie trades in usual expected flavors for a slightly spicy dose of ginger and black pepper. Get the recipe for Sweet and Spicy Kabocha Pie »Farideh Sadeghin

Thanksgiving isn't just a meal, and it's not just one kind of holiday. So every week in November we're sharing Thanksgiving #saveurtraditions from friends of SAVEUR. Today: Elizabeth Stark of Brooklyn Supper on a pumpkin pie that breaks the mold.

The first few modest Thanksgivings my husband and I hosted in our tiny Brooklyn apartment could be kindly described as lacking elegance. Creating a place to actually eat dinner was a challenge in our small walk-up, which came together with the help of our friends gamely clearing cutting boards and mixing bowls from the kitchen table (our two square feet of counters didn't offer enough prep space), pushing living room furniture aside, and setting up a sprawling amalgam of tables surrounded by an array of dining, office, and folding chairs.

But even when the decor required sophisticated choreography, I've always kept the menu easy. My husband and I are more open to change than some; even so, there are a few dishes that stay the same from year to year. Pickled carrots, and maybe grapes, always make it to the appetizer tray. We make a rich turkey stock in the days before and turn it into a sublime turkey gravy. The bird itself is a heritage breed bathed in butter. The only divisive element is the cranberry sauce—I prefer a mouth puckering relish made with raw cranberries and a whole orange, while pretty much everyone else prefers a traditional sauce.

After dinner, there's never been any disagreement: We feast on kabocha pie. My take on the traditional pumpkin pie recipe is most notable for what's not in it—canned pumpkin and condensed milk. At a time when even the most delicate varieties of winter squash are available fresh, I find the combination of freshly roasted winter squash and real deal cream cooked carefully in a buttery pie shell is nothing short of sublime. And light, very-orange kabocha, a Japanese squash variety, makes the perfect not-pumpkin pie. It's silky with none of the grit or heaviness that can plague other kinds of winter squash.

To a freshly roasted and mashed kabocha, I add a simple roster of ingredients: eggs, heavy cream, fresh and ground ginger, the expected warm baking spices, plus less expected ones like black pepper and cayenne. The filling puffs up nicely in the oven and eventually settles into an airy kabocha custard imbued with the very best flavors the season, with an extra peppery kick. Regular pumpkin pie just doesn't cut it anymore.

Elizabeth Stark, along with her husband Brian Campbell, chronicles her passion for simple, fresh recipes on the food blog Brooklyn Supper. In 2015, Brooklyn Supper won the Saveur Blog Awards Editors’ Choice Award for Most Delicious Food.