Now, My Beloved and I are not huge squash pie fans, and there really wasn't enough squash for a full-on pie, but she got me thinking along the custard line and that made timbales come to mind. Timbales are a great way to use up leftover ingredients - a way to enrobe those goodies in a savory custard. Once I had the idea, I was off and running.
I got a general recipe for the custard part from my trusty copy of the Joy of Cooking, then riffed from there. I sautéed finely chopped mushrooms until the water evaporated (it's important to have cooked ingredients because they otherwise release water, which makes for a runny custard), then added minced garlic, the leaves from 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, and about a 2" stub of leftover pork sausage that I crumbled and reheated with the mushroom mixture.
Into four buttered custard cups (you can buy purpose-made timbale molds, but any 6-ounce ramekin or custard cup will work equally well) went equal measures of the sausage gmish. I made the custard by putting two eggs, 3/4 cup of half and half, and one cup of the roasted squash in my blender and blending on low speed until it was well mixed. Poured that evenly into each of the custard cups, placed them in a roasting pan and added water halfway up their sides, and slid them into a 350 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes. They are done when a thin-bladed knife comes out clean from the centers.
Reversed onto lettuce leaves and garnished simply with avocado and tomato slices (only Roma tomatoes seem to keep some vestige of flavor into the winter), they made an excellent light lunch. The texture was a bit grainier and looser than a classic custard due to the addition of the kabocha squash, but the squash leant a lightly sweet flavor that played well with the savory thyme. If you wanted a smoother custard, I'm sure if you passed it through a fine strainer, you'd get the desired texture. The flavors of mushroom and sausage were little surprises here and there in the custard.
All in all, My Beloved and I enjoyed the experiment, as did our lunch guest. If you are feeling experimental, I can recommend playing around with timbales.
Kabocha Squash Timbales
10-12 crimini mushrooms, finely chopped (Or more. Or try using duxelles)
1 good sized-garlic clove, minced
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, using only the leaves (about 1/2 teaspoon)
2" crumbled pork sausage, pre-cooked (Or more, to taste)
1 cup roasted kabocha squash
3/4 cup half-and-half
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a very little butter in a wide pan, sauté mushrooms until the water evaporates and they begin to brown. Add the crumbled sausage meat so it warms. Add the garlic toward the end, watching carefully so it cooks but doesn't burn. Add the thyme and cook until it is fragrant. Set aside.
Butter 4 six-ounce custard cups or ramekins. Divide the sausage mixture between the custard cups. In a blender, whiz the eggs, squash and half-and-half on low speed until well combined. (Strain through a fine sieve if you want a smoother texture - optional)
Pour evenly into the custard cups and place the cups in a deep baking pan. Add water halfway up the sides of the cups and slide into the preheated oven.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes. When a thin-bladed knife comes out clean, they are ready. Remove from the water and cool on a rack until cool enough to handle. Run the thin blade of a knife around the edges of the cups to release the custard, then reverse it onto plates to serve.