It's a good thing this soup tastes so good. Slicing, seeding and peeling a pumpkin is no small task. I'm not gonna lie. It's a royal pain in the patooty. At one point, as I was covered in sticky, orange strings and nursing a minor knife cut on my finger, I considered throwing in the towel and ordering pizza.
I'm so glad I didn't.
Earlier in the week, my mom mailed me a handmade book of pumpkin recipes from an old Victoria magazine. She's so good at "snail mail" and often sends me homemade cards and little surprises, just because. I had a couple of pumpkins on hand from our CSA, Great Country Farms, so it was the perfect time to try out several pumpkin recipes.
I made a few recipes, including sweet and spicy toasted pumpkin seeds and a vegetarian chili with chunks of pumpkin. Hands down, though, my favorite recipe was this pumpkin soup.
Once you get past the nasty peeling, seeding and slicing bit, the soup really is pretty simple. You start by finely chopping the base flavors -- lots and lots of shallots and leeks. These wonderfully mild onion-cousins (yes, I made that up...) are added to a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a few tablespoons of butter. Sounds good already, right?
After the shallots and leeks have softened in the butter, add vegetable stock and then...forget about it. Well, sort of. The pumpkin simmers in the stock for about half an hour until it softens. You'll just need to stir it a few times. When the pumpkin is soft, toss it all into a blender to puree. Better yet, if you have an immersion blender, you can puree it directly in the pot.
If you stopped there, you'd have a deliciously simple soup. The recipe calls for adding a fancy shmancy wild mushroom garnish and an apple cider reduction. I'm not a huge fan of wild mushrooms, so I made my garnish with crimini (baby portobello) mushrooms. The cider reduction, mixed with cream, was fine, but I think not really necessary. The cooked mushrooms added some nice textural contrast, but could be left out as well. Whether you decide to go fancy shmancy or not, I think you'll really enjoy this velvety fall soup.
Here's the proof.
Adapted from Victoria magazine (issue unknown)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 c chopped shallots
1 c chopped leek, white part only
2 lbs pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 in pieces
1 qt vegetable (or chicken) stock or broth (I used 3 cups vegetable broth + 1 cup mushroom stock)
salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the Mushroom Garnish (optional):
2 c cleaned and diced mushrooms (I used crimini; original recipe calls for wild mushrooms)
1 clove minced garlic
1 sprig fresh thyme, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 c vegetable (or chicken) stock or broth
For the cider reduction with cream (very optional):
1 c apple cider
1/4 c heavy cream
1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, melt the butter and add the shallots and leek. Cook, stirring occasionally, 7 to 8 minutes, or until golden. Add the pumpkin and 4 cups of stock. Toss in a little salt and pepper (to taste). Bring the entire mixture to a boil and then simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Transfer the mixture, in batches, to a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Alternately, if you have an immersion blender, keep the mixture in the pot and puree it with this "handy" tool*. If you pureed the soup in the blender or food processor, return it the pan. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Return to soup to a gentle simmer, stirring, until you're ready to serve. If you choose not to make the garnish, you're done! Ladle it up and enjoy this delicious taste of fall.
3. If you choose to make the garnish, preheat the oven to 325 F before you begin to prepare the soup. In a shallow baking dish, toss the mushrooms with the garlic, thyme, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the stock and bake for 30 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender. Let the mushrooms stand in their juices until ready to serve.
4. For the cider topping, reduce the apple cider until it is of a light syrup consistency. Remove from the heat and whisk in the heavy cream.
To serve: Ladle the soup into bowls, add some cider cream and garnish with warm mushroom garnish.
*Bad puns not included in original recipe.