This reminds me of our many weekend shopping and leisure trips to Dao in the province of Pampanga. Depending on the traffic, it's about a 2-hour drive heading north from Manila. Old issues of Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day and other magazines of the same type were sold very cheap out there. I read so many of those magazines and picked up a collection of recipes from them. I learned so many cooking and baking techniques from them as well. Back then, Clark Air Force base, a big US military base, still existed. There were a number of surplus shops around the area, very similar to the flea market concept here, selling slightly used items from furniture to appliances and many more. There were also stalls selling imported groceries, candies and clothing. We used to enjoy walking around these shops on weekends. My mother particularly enjoyed browsing the kitchen and small appliances sections while my father checked out the machineries and gadgets for his shop. I remember my mother would also pack our lunch and we would have simple picnics along quiet and shady roads or at a nearby park. We spent many memorable weekends there.
Back to my thoughts about Thanksgiving, big orange pumpkins were not available in the Philippines when I was growing up. These days, I think they sell it in bigger supermarkets but as a novelty item. We had a more common variety of squash, which can actually grow as big as the medium size pumpkins here. We never used them for desserts or pies. We often cook them in a popular mixed vegetable dish called pinakbet or with long beans and coconut milk. I had my first taste of pumpkin pie when I came to the US and have grown to like it since. I've also learned that nothing can beat the convenience of Libby's solid pack pumpkin : ) It took me a few days to decide what to make with the canned pumpkin in the pantry. I wanted to try to make something new. While organizing old issues of the now defunct Gourmet : ( I ran into this good looking pumpkin flan version. The flan was a success and a good dessert idea which can be made ahead for Thanksgiving. The caramelized sugar enhanced the pumpkin color and went so well with the flavor of the pumpkin and spices. I altered the recipe a bit but the original recipe can be found in the Gourmet website. Here's my adaptation:
1/2 cup sugar [divided and caramelized for the two 6" cake pans I used]
1 cup heavy cream
1 can evaporated milk [approximately 1 1/2 cups]
5 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 15 oz. can solid pack pumpkin puree
I used two 6" cake pans and sprinkled each one with 1/4 cup sugar. Spray with water and caramelize the sugar over medium heat. Tilt the pans to spread the melting sugar as they start to caramelize to a deep burnt sugar color. Set the pans aside. Gently whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and spices. Stir in the pumpkin. Combine the heavy cream and evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan or pot. Set on low heat until it starts to simmer. Remove from heat. Slowly add the milk to the pumpkin mixture. Mix well. Strain the mixture onto the prepared pans, dividing equally. Set the pans in a rectangular baking pan and place in the preheated 350F oven. Boil some water and slowly pour it into the rectangular pan, creating a water bath for the flan to gently bake. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the tops are evenly browned. Allow to cool at room temperature, cover tightly with foil then refrigerate to set. The flans may be made a day ahead and kept refrigerated. To unmold, loosen the sides with a thin knife, place a serving platter right on top of the pan and invert. Decorate with toasted pecans.
May you enjoy the bounty of the season's celebrations.