Simply Gourd-geous

Simply Gourd-geous

Cooking Class: Roasted Pumpkin and Crab Soup

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When we think of cooking squash, finding new ways to use the ubiquitous summer zucchini springs to mind. But let’s not forget the culinary possibilities offered by winter gourds such as pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash and spaghetti squash. These tough-skinned vegetables ripen later in the fall and can be stored much longer than summer squash, but they require more preparation to produce something tasty.

The key to working with winter squash—or gourds—is in roasting them properly and then using the rich, velvety purée created from their cooked flesh in a variety of preparations, including soup, pies, cakes, quick breads and muffins. Gourds are easy to roast and their cooked pulp is far more flavorful and nutritious than the canned, processed kind. It’s also much easier to roast a gourd than it is to peel, chop and boil its flesh.

And don’t forget: The seeds of larger gourds such as pumpkins can be salted and toasted for a tasty treat or as a garnish to soup.

Roasted Pumpkin and Crab Soup

Ingredients (8 servings)

  • 1 small pumpkin, about 3 pounds (Sugar Pie, Cinderella and Red Kuri are the best varieties)
  • ½ cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons for sweating vegetables
  • 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, powdered ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg and fennel seed
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced bacon or pancetta
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped
  • 1 bulb fennel, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh, minced ginger
  • 1 cup of dry white wine
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, plus additional for  adjusting consistency
  • 1 bouquet garni (Wrap the following in cheesecloth and tie the top with twine:  
  • 2 bay leaves, 6 parsley stems, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon white peppercorns)  
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Salt and white pepper to taste
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 pound fresh jumbo lump crabmeat, seasoned to taste with cayenne, salt and pepper
  • Chopped chives for garnish
  • Toasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

It’s a Bowl

Any large gourd can be used as a soup terrine; and smaller pumpkins, such as the Jack-Be-Little or Baby Bear varieties, can be used as individual soup bowls, creating a dazzling seasonal presentation. To create a serving bowl from a pumpkin, remove the top with a sharp knife, hollow out the inside and steam at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until the sides are slightly softened but still strong enough to hold liquid. (Baking time will be shorter or longer depending on the size and type of pumpkin.)

How to Roast a Pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the pumpkin into wedges about 2 inches thick and scrape off the seeds. Arrange the wedges flesh side up on a sheet tray. Rub the ½ cup of olive oil, cinnamon, powdered ginger, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, fennel seed and brown sugar on the surface of the pumpkin flesh. Place the pumpkin in the oven and roast for at least 30 minutes, or until the flesh is tender and the sugar is caramelized. Remove from the oven and cool for about 20 minutes. Scoop the cooked flesh from the skin with a large spoon and purée.

How to Make the Soup

  1. Place a large soup pot over a medium flame. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, bacon or pancetta and the peeled garlic. Cook until the garlic just turns golden brown, and then add the chopped onion, leeks, fennel, carrot and ginger. Stir the vegetables every minute for about 10 minutes to cook off moisture and acids. Add the wine and cook until it reduces almost totally.
  2. In a separate pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil for at least 8 minutes, then add the stock to the soup pot. Add the pumpkin flesh and the bouquet garni. Bring the soup to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer the soup for 30 to 45 minutes.
  3. In a blender, purée the soup in several small batches. Pass the pureed soup through a fine sieve. Adjust the consistency of the soup by thinning as necessary with additional chicken stock or thickening by reducing over medium heat. At this stage, the soup may be cooled and stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
  4. To serve, bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer. Add a tablespoon of sour cream for each cup of soup (save about 2 tablespoons of sour cream for garnish). Season the soup with salt and pepper. Add cayenne to taste judiciously—the flavor intensifies over time. Mix the extra 2 tablespoons of sour cream with a tablespoon of water and set aside. Arrange soup bowls on a sheet tray. Place 6 to 8 lumps of seasoned crabmeat in each bowl. Heat oven to 300 degrees and place the soup bowls inside for about 2 minutes to warm them. Ladle the soup into the bowls. Spoon a little of the sour cream-water mixture on top of each serving. Garnish with chopped chives and toasted pumpkin seeds.

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