Pumpkin Curry with Chicken

Every year as Halloween comes to a close, I find myself with a carved pumpkin staring at me from across the room. I am a little ashamed to say that this year, BOTH our pumpkins remained uncarved! Oh the shame. We had two options, host a post Halloween carving session or cook the darn things. Needless to say, option number two was the route taken. I’ve roasted many a squash in my day, but I can hardly say that I have ever stuck an entire pumpkin in my oven. With only a vague idea of what we would make with a huge roasted gourd, my brain defaulted to a favorite dish I always enjoy ordering at thai restaurants… pumpkin curry.

I happily slurped up this curry in all it’s fragrant and warming tastiness. The coconut milk sweetened the dish while the curry paste and shallots added spice and color. As usual, I tossed in a few additional vegetables for crunch and a pop of color. The green beans and yellow bell peppers were a good call and contrasted wonderfully against the roasted pumpkin that fell apart at the slightest touch. If you like more heat in your curries, I would recommend adding 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 halved thai chili to the sauce as it cooks.

On a cold and rainy San Francisco Sunday, this dish was a total winner!

Makes 4 servings

1 (1-1/2 pound) small pumpkin or butternut squash — halved seeded peeled and cut into bite-size cubes
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into slivers
1/2 lb green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half
2 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
1 (13-1/2 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons firmly packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size cubes
2 tablespoons slivered fresh basil (optional for garnish)
Serve with steamed brown rice

Cook the pumpkin: Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, place cut side down on 2 foil-lined, rimmed baking sheets. Bake about an hour, or until soft. Cool for 20 minutes. Cut into 2 inch cubes. Set aside.

Prepare the curry base: In a blender, combine the shallots, garlic and curry paste with 2 tablespoons water and process until smooth. In a small bowl, combine the coconut milk, lime juice and brown sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook the curry: In a wok or large fry pan over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the chicken and sear until light brown on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to a bowl. Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add green beans and bell pepper. Saute for 3-5 minutes. Add the curry base and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Stir in the coconut milk mixture and bring to a boil. Add red pepper flakes or thai chili for heat (optional). Add the chicken and pumpkin, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the pumpkin is tender when pierced with a fork and the chicken is opaque throughout, about 10-15 minutes more. Transfer the curry to a serving bowl, garnish with the basil and serve immediately with steamed rice.

*Note: If your pumpkin is giant like ours was, reserve additional roasted pumpkin for another dish or puree for use in pumpkin soup later in the week.

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