Kitchen Heirlooms with The Beekman Boys


When we heard that Dr. Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, the Manhattanites-turned-farmers better known as the “Beekman Boys,” were following up their debut collection of heirloom recipes with a collection of heirloom dessert recipes, we knew just who to talk to as the season for holiday treats approaches. The duo has been hard at work—tending to their upstate New York homestead and spreading the word about The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook—but Brent found a few minutes to tell us about one of his favorite recipes, as well as some other heirlooms in his kitchen. After the interview, check out Brent's tips for the perfect Kabocha Squash Pie and five Beekman-approved baking essentials from the terrain pantry.

terrain: What inspired you to collect and share heirloom recipes? How did you go about gathering them?

Brent: When we were working on the first heirloom recipes cookbook, Josh and I looked back to the dishes we remembered best from our childhoods. In the process, we thought a lot about what makes an heirloom recipe. We decided that an heirloom recipe is any dish made so often in your family that it develops its own story or mythology. We also came up with three criteria that every recipe had to meet: 1. It had to be delicious, of course. 2. It had to be relatively simple to make. 3. It had to use ingredients that weren’t hard to find. Without those elements, a recipe would never be made often enough to become an heirloom.

terrain: Can you tell us about one of your favorite recipes from the book? 

Brent: The Winter Kabocha Squash Pie (recipe below) is one of the few things that both Josh and I grew up eating. It’s such a universal dish from a geographic standpoint, and it has great memories for both of us. It’s something that my family made every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Josh’s family did, too.

terrain: What are some of your favorite ingredients or recipes for the holiday season? Do you have a special dish you always make when celebrating?

Brent: Our big celebration at the farm is actually on Boxing Day, December 26. The tradition started out in an unusual way—our farm is in a really small community and when we moved there, most people had already staked out a holiday celebration to host. The only day left was Boxing Day, which we claimed as ours. Since we make cheese on the farm, we wanted to do something cheese-related, so we decided to serve raclette. It’s a traditional Swiss dish—you take a big wheel of cheese and put it on a rock by the fireplace, then as it melts you scrape off the soft cheese and spread it over potatoes. Now we serve raclette every year; it’s the hallmark of our holiday.

terrain: To go along with your heirloom recipes, are there any heirloom tools in your kitchen? Is there a pan or implement you always turn to when making a certain dish?

Brent: My great-grandmother had a specific pan that she always used to make old-fashioned, buttermilk biscuits—a really beautiful one with an incredible patina. Eventually it was passed on to my mother, and now I have it. Over the years, my mom tried to make biscuits using new pans, but they were never quite the same as ones from that favorite pan.

Winter Kabocha Squash Pie
from The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook

Pie crust of your choice
2 cups kabocha squash puree
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons bourbon or Scotch
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Kabocha puree: You'll need about 2 pounds of large (unpeeled) squash chunks to get 2 cups of puree. Roast them in a pan covered with foil in a 400°F oven until soft. Scrape the flesh off the skin and puree in a food processor.

Crust: On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round. Roll the dough around the rolling pin and then fit into a 9-inch pie plate without stretching, pressing the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim the dough to leave a 1-inch overhang around the edge. Fold the overhang in over the rim to make a double layer and, with your fingers, crimp the dough all around. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before baking (this helps to relax the dough and prevents it from shrinking once baked).

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the kabocha puree, granulated and brown sugars, cream, milk, eggs, and bourbon. Stir in flour, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake for 45 minutes, or until the pie is set with a slightly wobbly center. Cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Photo by Paulette Tavormina, courtesy of Rodale.

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