October 19, 2012
The end of actual summer tends to be slightly preceded every year by me getting literally bored of eating summer fruits and vegetables, falling into a malaise in which I can’t even figure out what to eat, and then developing a craving for large, serious squash.
I was inspired to try this for the first time last year, when I was in a similar mood and craving a hot, thick soup, and thought first that I’d try my hand at potato soup or potato chowder. I can’t say where the inspiration came from to make it pumpkin instead, but I thought of Barbara Kingsolver’s lamentation in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, that in most recipes involving pumpkin these days, the recipe will call for one 15-ounce can of pumpkin. No one knows how to hack up a large vegetable to eat rather than use for decoration anymore.
I asked advice of a couple friends, followed some of it, and setting forth without recipe, hacked up a pumpkin.
We’ve been enjoying a crisp, lovely fall in NYC, and so I made this for the second time last week, refining my technique slightly from my first experience. (Protip: using the food processor for this is not worth it.)
You will need:
A large stock pot
One smallish cooking pumpkin
One or two large onions, sliced
One large white potato, or 3 or 4 small red potatoes, diced
About 4 cups chicken stock (I make a batch from the leftovers every time I roast a chicken, so I always have some in the freezer and don’t have to buy it.)
Half a stick or so of butter. Or more. Usually more, in my case.
A couple tablespoons olive oil
A couple tablespoons flour
About half a pint of half and half or heavy cream
1. Preheat the oven to 400. With a sharp, sturdy knife, cut the pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds, and cut the halves in half again.
I always forget how long that part takes.
2. Put the quartered pumpkin sections on a baking sheet and rub with olive oil.
And put into the oven. Roast till tender and starting to caramelize, probably around an hour.
3. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh out of the skins and shred well with a fork. It should be soft enough that this is fairly easy. (This is where I discarded advice to use a food processor, which I tried my first time through, and made a mess.)
5. In the stock pot, melt the butter, and sauté about half the onions until tender. Move the onions off to one side, add the flour to the butter, and whisk until it’s incorporated. This creates a roux that will help the soup thicken later.
6. Now add the chicken stock and bring to a low boil. Add the diced potatoes and cook till those are tender.
And now start adding the pumpkin, in small amounts at a time, cooking till each addition is incorporated. It’ll disintegrate a good bit as it cooks, but I like it to keep some of its rough, shredded texture. I’ve wound up only using about half the cooked pumpkin in the chowder, and saving the other half for use in other delicious baked things.
Add the rest of the sliced onions, and cook till tender. Add salt to taste.
7. Turn the heat down so the pumpkin-y broth at this point is just simmering, and slowly add and stir in the cream. Cook on low heat–don’t boil–until the chowder is heated through. More salt and pepper to taste.
And I garnished mine with fresh thyme.
It’s fabulous with some toasted crusty bread and glass of white wine, and presidential debates or Doctor Who on television.