Friday, September 30, 2011

Pumpkin soup with Gruyere: a recipe

Pumpkin soup with Gruyere
I love cooking from magazines but sometimes their ingredient lists send me on a bit of a wild goose chase.

Enter this pumpkin soup recipe from the October issue of Bon Appetit.

The soup is cooked in the pumpkin itself so the authors advise choosing a variety of pumpkin that will hold up well in the oven. Think about what a colossal mess you'd have if the pumpkin caved in on itself with all that liquid inside it. Yipes. So yes, great advice.

However, their recommendations for sturdy varieties include "Cheese" or "Jarrahdale."

Um ... say WHAT?

Now, granted, I live in the sticks so you'd expect I personally might not be as familiar with these varieties as our cosmopolitan recipe authors, but I do live in one of the locavore capitals of the United States and a place where heirloom varieties of anything can be pretty easily found at farmers markets, farm stands and even grocery stores.

So, undaunted, I headed off to a very large local farm stand, knowing that they supply not only local home cooks but also a lot of the high-end area restaurants and natural markets. Surely they'd have every kind of hip pumpkin that exists, right?

The owner had never even heard of these varieties. Great.

His advice was to use pie pumpkins. So I bought some, as a backup, in case I couldn't find a Mr. Cheesedale or whatever the hell the recipe called for.

To make a long story short, I drove around the Burlington area, stopping everywhere I could think of, and probably burned about $15 worth of gas but I finally found a freakin' LONG ISLAND CHEESE PUMPKIN (yeah, whatever) at the Healthy Living Market (thank you). They had four. I bought two.

Behold: the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin. Which isn't even orange.

Now, after making this soup, I'm slightly annoyed to tell you that I think a regular pumpkin would work JUST FINE.  I'm basing this on the fact that the Holy Grail of Pumpkin Recipes called for normal pumpkin and held up under similar extreme oven roasting.

I tell you this because this soup is definitely worth making. It makes a great meal when you have guests, because you prep it, fill it and then forget about it for at least an hour and a half, leaving you free to be part of the party.

It's pretty cool-looking, too. The cheese and breadcrumb mixture puffs up and forms a nice cheesy cap. When you break through it with a serving spoon, you can scoop up the tender pumpkin flesh, along with the yummy broth and the cheesy goodness, all in one spoonful.

It's not quite the Holy Grail of Pumpkin Recipes, but it's a close second.

By the way, those pie pumpkins will make cute little decorations for my front steps.

Pumpkin Soup with Gruyere (slightly adapted from Melissa Hamilton's and Christopher Hirsheimer's recipe from Bon Appetit

1 (6–8 pound) regular old sturdy pumpkin
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, finely ground (use a spice grinder or mortar-and-pestle)
2 large pinches chili powder
salt and pepper
2 cups (packed) grated Gruyère
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs made from white bread (I put a day-old baguette, minus the crust, in a mini food processor)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
5–7 cups chicken stock (I used not quite 5 for a 6-pound pumpkin)
Parsley or chives for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut out a lid from the top of the pumpkin (like a jack-o-lantern), removing seeds. Scoop out seeds and strings from inside pumpkin.

Place pumpkin in a roasting pan or on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Rub interior pumpkin flesh with butter. Sprinkle all over inside with fennel, chili powder and some salt and pepper. Add cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic, and bay leaves. Pour in stock to come within 2 inches of the pumpkin's rim. Cover with lid.

Roast pumpkin for 1 hour. Remove lid; put lid flesh side up on pan alongside pumpkin and return to oven (if you don't plan to use it for serving, you can toss it at this point). Continue to roast until pumpkin flesh is soft when pricked with a knife or toothpick (BE SURE not to puncture the skin!), 30-90 minutes more, depending on size of pumpkin (note: I only needed an additional 30 minutes for a 6-pound pumpkin).

Discard bay leaves. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, gently scoop a big spoonful of flesh from sides or bottom of pumpkin into each bowl and ladle stock over. You can mash it up slightly, if you like. Garnish with parsley or chives (optional).


  1. Wow, that is impressive! I'd probably go with whatever pumpkin I could find!

  2. Well, Pam, I think you certainly can and I'm sure it would be just as good ... and a lot easier on your gas budget. :-)