smashed pumpkin mole curds

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smashed pumpkin mole curdsInspired by a trip to Mexico City, this pumpkin dish makes use of the complex flavors of an ashed pumpkin mole. We counter the sweetness with pickled raw pumpkin and beautiful succulents from the greenhouse. Lynn Mahon’s slab plate (see this page) serves as a perfect pedestal.

  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • 1 .9 kilograms | 8 cups whole milk
  • 476 grams | 2 cups heavy cream
  • 238 grams | 1 cup buttermilk
  • 22 grams | 1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • kosher salt
  • 2 | kabocha squashes
  • 50 grams | 3 ½ tablespoons brown butter
  • kosher salt
  • 80 grams | 2.7 ounces dried ancho chiles
  • 80 grams | 2.7 ounces dried guajillo chiles
  • 80 grams | 2.7 ounces dried cascabel chiles
  • 36 grams | about 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 | 3-inch (7.5-centimeter) piece cassia bark
  • 14 grams | 2 tablespoons white peppercorns
  • 25 grams | ¼ cup cumin seeds
  • 4 grams | 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 200 grams | 1 ⅓ cups pumpkin seeds
  • 25 grams | 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin
  • olive oil
  • 150 grams | 1 cup diced yellow onions
  • 300 grams | 10.5 ounces pumpkin cubes
  • 100 grams | ⅔ cup golden raisins
  • 675 grams | 2 ¾ cups crushed tomato
  • 45 grams | ⅓ cup pumpkin skin ash
  • 30 grams | 1 ounce unrefined Mexican chocolate
How to Make It
  1. FOR THE FRESH RICOTTA: In a container, stir together the milk, cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice, then season with kosher salt. Pour into vacuum bags and seal the bags on high. Cook in a hot-water bath set at 190°F (88°C) for 2 hours. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath. Remove the bags from the bath and immerse immediately in the ice bath for 1 hour.
  2. To set up a resting tray for the curds, place a colander above a container. Line the colander with a piece of cheesecloth and pour the curds into the colander. Wrap the entire setup in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours. Transfer the strained curds to a container with a lid and discard the whey. Taste for seasoning and add more kosher salt if necessary. Cover and refrigerate.
  3. FOR THE PUMPKIN SKIN ASH: Prepare a fire in a wood-burning oven. Peel the skin away from the kabocha flesh and reserve the skin. Cut the flesh into uniform small cubes, about 8 cubes total. Reserve the trim for use in the mole. Put the cubes into a vacuum bag, add the brown butter and salt, and seal the bag on high. Cook in a steam oven set at 200°F (95°C) for 15 minutes. Reserve in the bag in the refrigerator.
  4. When the fire is about 600°F (315°C), arrange the reserved skin on a cast-iron tray and roast in the oven for 1 hour, until heavily charred and desiccated. Let the charred skin cool, then transfer to a blender and mix on high speed for about 3 minutes, until pulverized. Store the powder in an airtight container at room temperature.
  5. FOR THE PUMPKIN MOLE: Heat a griddle over high heat. Arrange all of the chiles and the garlic on the hot surface and toast on all sides for about 3 minutes total, until light brown and fragrant. Add the cassia bark, peppercorns, cumin, cloves, and pumpkin seeds and toast for an additional 2 minutes. Transfer all of the toasted ingredients to paper towels.
  6. Place a stockpot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, onions, pumpkin cubes, and raisins and stir the contents of the pot continuously to keep the onions from caramelizing. Add the toasted chiles, garlic, spices, and pumpkin seeds and continue to stir continuously. Follow with the crushed tomatoes, pumpkin skin ash, and chocolate, continuing to stir.
  7. Bring the mole to a simmer over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, for about 2 hours. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath. Working in batches, add the mole to a blender and mix on high speed until a smooth puree forms. Strain the puree through a chinois into a bowl, then nest the bowl in the ice bath to cool.
  8. FOR THE FROZEN PUMPKIN SHELL: Season the diced kabocha squash with kosher salt. Place the kabocha and 200 grams (scant 1 cup) of the brown butter in a vacuum bag and seal the bag on high. Cook in a steam oven set at 200°F (95°C) for about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, transfer to a blender, and mix on high speed for 30 seconds, until smooth. Add the pumpkin mole, the remaining 75 grams (⅓ cup) of brown butter, and the gelatin and mix on medium speed for an additional 20 seconds. Season with kosher salt and strain through a chinois into a heatproof bowl.
  9. Carefully put the liquid nitrogen into a deep metal container (excessive changes in temperature or agitation of the liquid nitrogen may cause it to become volatile). Spray a 60 millimeter (¼ cup) metal ladle with nonstick cooking spray. Dip it into the liquid nitrogen for 15 seconds and then into the pumpkin mole for 15 seconds. Repeat. When the ladle is covered with two coats of mole, dip the ladle back into the liquid nitrogen for 20 seconds. Using a kitchen torch, gently heat the inside of the ladle to loosen the shell. Carefully remove the shell by twisting it in one direction and the ladle in the other direction. When the shell is free, drop it back into liquid nitrogen for 10 seconds, then transfer to a dry plastic container. Repeat to make at least 6 shells total. Cover the container loosely and store in the freezer until needed. (To discard the liquid nitrogen, carefully pour it back into its original container.)
  10. FOR THE PUMPKIN SEED GRANOLA: Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Heat the brown butter in a medium saucepan to about 300°F (150°C). Working in batches, fry the pumpkin seeds for about 20 seconds, until golden brown. Transfer the seeds to the paper-lined sheet pan. Again working in batches, add the bread slices to the brown butter and fry, turning once, for about 20 seconds total, until golden brown. Transfer to the paper-lined sheet pan.
  11. Toast the pumpkin seeds and bread in the oven for 6 minutes. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a food processor and mix for 15 seconds. Add the brown rice syrup and pulse just to combine. Season with kosher salt. Line a sheet pan with a silicone baking mat and spread the granola evenly on the mat. Return to the oven and toast for 5 minutes.
  12. Let cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container with silica gel packets at room temperature.
  13. FOR THE PICKLED RAW PUMPKIN: Using a mandoline, thinly shave the squash. Cut the pieces into julienne, transfer to a container, and add the vinegar. Season with kosher salt and put the entire container into the chamber of a vacuum seal machine. Compress twice with full vacuum and store the squash in the refrigerator.
  14. FOR THE PUMPKIN JUICE VINAIGRETTE: Warm the brown butter in a small saucepan over low heat. When the butter reaches 130°F (54°C), season it with the pumpkin juice, vinegar, and Maldon salt. Keep in a warm place.

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