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Later, taters

Kat Kinsman
October 20, 2017

Potatoes are great, especially in the morning. Yum yum, potatoes: You are the president of breakfast. Feel good now, potatoes? OK great, but take a break because it's time for pumpkin to have a turn in the spotlight, and not just in the form of pies, muffins, and pastries. And there doesn't need to be a single shake of pumpkin spice in the vicinity, because we're leaning into pumpkin's savory side here, treating it almost like a potato, but better. (You didn't hear that, potato.)

Pumpkins are packed with all sorts of magnificent health… stuff, like vitamins A and C, plenty of fiber, beta-carotene, and riboflavin (whatever that does). But most importantly for morning meals, it fills you up without sending you into a carb coma or spiking up your blood sugar, all while tasting fantastic. It should be noted that we're not talking about the jack o'lantern-friendly pumpkins you're seeing stacked up at the grocery story or farmstand. Those are technically edible, but they're bred for looks and shape rather than flavor. Look for whole, fresh pumpkins with pie, sugar, or cheese in the name, and select one that is on the smaller side, 4 to 8 pounds. It doesn't have to be gorgeous, but it should not have any rotten spots (check the bottom).

Lug that puppy home and get ready to roast. The order of operations is up to you, but the stem can provide a nice handle when you're peeling the pumpkin—which you really should do. The skin is edible when roasted, but often on the tough side. Use a Y-shaped vegetable peeler if you have one, and employing tremendous patience, remove as much skin as you possibly can. Then carefully cut around the stem in a circle and remove it, then split the pumpkin in half vertically.

Scrape the seeds and guts out of the inside, reserving the seeds to salt and roast. This is your reward for going to all that fuss with the peeling. Then cut out the rough bottom end of the pumpkin, cut the halves into slices, and the slices into cubes. Heat your oven to 375°F, grab a couple of rimmed baking sheets or roasting pans, layer the pumpkin cubes on them, and get ready to make some decisions.

Select the cooking fat of your choice. Sesame brings out the warm, nutty, autumnal flavors of pumpkin, but you may be more in a bacon fat or olive oil place in your life. This is up to you—just make sure that the cubes are fairly evenly coated. You could even toss them in a bowl with the fat before layering them on the pan. Then sprinkle them with salt; this part is not negotiable.

After that, pick your spices. Black pepper, cumin, turmeric, and curry powder are a great combo. You might be more in a nutmeg, thyme, and sage place. Aleppo pepper and sumac might be what speaks to you, or it could be some grated pecorino, black pepper, and rosemary. Throw some chopped onions or shallots in there if you are feeling it. Only you can answer this for yourself. The important thing is that you set a timer for 15 minutes, and move the cubes around so they don't burn or stick. Set a timer and check back every 10-15 minutes until they've given off all their water and browned to a heavenly state.  

From there, just serve them as you would a hash brown, home fries, or other breakfast potato. They keep in the fridge beautifully for a few days and reheat easily in a pan or toaster. Gorge on breakfast pumpkin for the brief time that you can. By the time you're sick of it, pumpkins will have packed up shop until next autumn. Your heart will be smashed, but you'll have something to look forward to.

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