Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pumpkin Soup in its shell

I am always looking for creative ways to cook and serve the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Some years ago, I followed this recipe for a Halloween party, and this year I have decided to use it for Thanksgiving. Serving the soup in a pumpkin shell is not absolutely necessary, but it certainly makes it more festive, attractive, and fun. Use one large pumpkin shell for the table or small pumpkin shells for individual servings.

Preparing the pumpkin shell(s)

Select short, round, squat pumpkin(s) rather than upright tall, thin ones. Wash the pumpkin(s) in warm, soapy water, rinse well and dry. Using a sharp knife, insert the tip about 1/3 of the way down and cut away the top to form a lid. Scoop out the seeds and stringy mass. Lightly oil the pumpkin inside and out, and sprinkle the inside with salt. Place cleaned pumpkin(s) and lid(s) on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 325°F for one to one and one-half hours, depending on the size of the shell. Bake the pumpkin shell until the pumpkin flesh begins to soften. WATCHPOINT: You want the pumpkin flesh to be just soft enough to scoop out, but the shell must not get soft or it will not support the weight of the soup. If unsure, it is better to underbake. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Gently scoop out some of the soft, cooked pumpkin from the wall and lid, being careful not to puncture the shell. Use this for the pumpkin soup.

For 8 servings:

2 cups finely chopped onions
½ cup finely chopped leeks
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup finely chopped carrots
½ cup peanut oil
8 cups chicken stock 
4 cups (2 pounds) cooked pumpkin (You can add or substitute cans of pumpkin.)
2 Idaho or Russet potatoes, peeled, washed and cubed
1 bay leaf
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan or Swiss cheese
Fresh chopped parsley
Fleur de sel

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, sauté onions, leeks, celery and carrots in oil. Cook until onions begin to look translucent. Add stock, pumpkin, potatoes and bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf. Add milk and cook over low heat for five minutes. Do not boil. Add ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper. (If it is too thick, add water or more milk and cook another five minutes.) Ladle hot soup into pumpkin shell(s). Serve hot with grated cheese, chopped parsley and fleur de sel as garnish.

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