1 (2- to 3-pound) green or red Kabocha squash*
1 cup (packed) light-brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 sprig fresh rosemary
3 egg yolks (save whites for meringue, if you like meringue on your pie)
Ginger crust (recipe follows)
Whipped cream (recipe follows)
1. Roast: Slice squash in half. Use an ice-cream scoop to scrape out seeds and any stringy innards. Set squash cut-side-down on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Slide into a 400-degree oven and roast until tender (pierce with a fork, right through the skin), about 40 minutes.
2. Swirl: Scoop out orange flesh (discard skin) and drop it into the food processor. Swirl completely smooth. Measure 2 cups puree.
3. Simmer: In a medium saucepan, heat cream, milk and rosemary to a simmer. Let simmer (infusing the cream mixture with rosemary flavor and slightly reducing it) about 20 minutes. Strain.
4. Toss: Use a fork to toss together sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt.
5. Mix: Return the 2 cups squash to the food processor. Add cream (hot is fine), eggs, yolks, and sugar mix. Swirl smooth.
6. Bake: Pour squash mix onto baked ginger crust (still in its pan, still on a baking sheet). Slide into the center of a 400-degree oven and bake until pie is jiggly all the way across, about 45 minutes. Cool completely. Unsnap sides of pan, release pie. Slice and serve plain or with whipped cream, meringue … or both.
Ginger crust: Line a 9-inch springform pan (the sort used for cheesecake) with parchment paper. Stir together 1 1/4 cups gingersnap crumbs (use the sturdy kind, not the fancy kind), 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, and 3 tablespoons sugar. Press firmly across the bottom (not sides) of the prepared pan. Set pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Slide into the center of a 400-degree oven and bake until crust is fragrant and slightly darkened, about 12 minutes (don’t overbake!). Cool.
*Kabocha squash, also called Japanese pumpkin, has sweet, dense flesh that makes excellent pumpkin pie. I got mine at Whole Foods. Check the farmers’ market or pumpkin patch. If you can’t find one, substitute 1 (2- to 3-pound) pie pumpkin. Or open a can of prepared pumpkin puree (usually 15 ounces: close enough). Taste will not be as pronounced and texture will be softer, but it works fine.
Meringue: Slide 3 egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk in 11 tablespoons sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. Set over a pan of simmering water and whisk until 165 degrees hot. Snap into the mixer and, using the whisk attachment, whip to sturdy peaks. Whip in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Pile onto pie or use a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch star tip for a fancier effect. Brown with a torch.
Whipped cream: Whip 2 cups heavy cream, 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract to soft peaks.
Note: If you like both meringue and whipped cream on your pie, decorate with meringue first and brown with a torch. Then add whipped cream and chill the whole contraption.