Tis the season for soup! Icy grey days, and long cold nights make us all yearn for something warm bright and delicious. And so this holiday, I thought I’d find a way to capture all that is cozy and comforting about soup in my holiday meal and meals. Relying on good training I took the plan-ahead approach to entertaining consecutive masses of family. Oddly enough that training did not come from culinary school, but rather years of winter weekends where I would watch my mother and grandmother make soup. Batches of roasted red peper, butternut squash, and chili were made, portioned, and frozen in one long weekend. This was essential for use throughout the winter months in our house, especially when an unexpected snow day arrived!
What a snow day does to a mother, the Christmas season does to me. Merriment to the point of madness leaving me with a secret wish that everyone would just disappear! So trying avoid the proverbial Christmas breakdown, I braced for the expected this year and prepped ahead. A week prior to full throttle holidays, I made an extra large batch of my favorite homemade soup, and froze it in portions to use as the starter for all my holiday dinner parties. In Jones-lady style I hid one batch at the back of the freezer, reserved pour moi to enjoy in the peace and quiet of the post-holiday season.
This silky and healthy soup is the perfect starter for any formal meal- jazz it up with a dollop of creme fresh, some chopped chives or cilantro, spicy roasted pumpkin seeds, or crisped chopped pancetta and you have a restaurant quality start to your meal.
But when the holidays come and go, I find that this soup shines best as the star of the show. By pairing this silken pumpkin delite with a gorgonzola and jambon walnut bread it becomes lunchtime’s main attraction. Simply spread room temp gorgonzola on thin slices of walnut bread from your local bakery, and top with a thin piece of cured jambon. Toast briefly underneath the broiler to crisp and warm and voila: a spectacular winter lunch in minutes!
For my back-to-working-lunch today I made do with what I had on hand- a chestnut butter I had left over from my Christmas stuffing recipe made a great spread for my nut bread. A few seconds under the broiler a large tea cup and a dollop of creme fraiche later and my lunch break was no longer a lonesome endeavor, but a luxurious respite from the harsh confines of my office that yelled “get back to work! “
And were it not a working lunch, I must say that a tall glass of oaky Chardonnay would have been the ideal companion….
Peter Piper Pumpkin Soup
Serves 10-12 and freezes wonderfully for up to 1 month
*There are many variations on pumpkin soup out there, but my base for this recipe is inspired by one from my favorite London lunch spots I discovered while studying at Le Cordon Bleu in London: La Fromagerie. Find other recipes by proprietress Patricia Michelson in her incredible second book CHEESE
13 oz unsalted european butter
3 large white onion, chopped
4 large leeks, white and light green parts choped
4 garlic cloves, chopped rather finely (5 if they are small)
3 medium size pumpkins, skinned, seeded, cubed
1 acorn squash, skinned, seeded and cubed OR 1 small bundle, peeled and chopped carrots
7 pints homemade or high quality chicken stock, vegetable stock, or even beef stock (believe it or not) in the debt of winter
1 large bouquet garnis (6 sprigs of thyme, 2 bruised bay leaves, few celery leaves, 5 parsley stocks)
Grating of 1/2 fresh nutmeg
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 tsp cumin
course sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste
1. sweat leeks and onions in butter in a large stock pot over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and sweat for 30 seconds more. Then add the pumpkin and squash and allow took cook down and soften a bit with the lid closed, stirring every few minutes for about 8-10. (Make sure to not burn the garlic, and if it is getting too dry feel free to add another dollop of butter).
2. Meanwhile, heat the 7 pints of stock in another pot on the stove and reduce slightly, then add all the hot stock to the pot, bring to a boil, season, and, adding the bouquet garnis, cook on medium/low until the pumpkin and squash are very tender- this can take 20 minutes or more depending.
3. When tender remove in batches the vegetables (discard the bouquet garnis) and some stock and puree in a food processor in several sets.
4. When all is pureed, return the soup to the pot and adjust consistency as necessary (too thin? reduce it, too thick? Add more stock) Then taste and add in nutmeg, paprika, and cumin, along with salt and pepper all to your liking (feel free to play around a bit with it here)
5. Once you have the seasoning and consistency down. Blend again with the hand blender to make the soup extra smooth. You can now also add in a dollop or two butter to gain the shine and depth that a great soup always possesses….
A hand for every mother and grandmother who make, and have made, cooking, eating, and entertaining such important parts of our lives.
The Supper Model