October 7, 2009

Savory Pumpkin Soup

Every year, as the beginning of October rolls around, my annual craving for pumpkin kicks in, as if by instinct. This year, my hankering for pumpkin seems particularly strong. Besides actually loving the flavor of pumpkin, I now have another reason to feast on the orange flesh of this winter squash. I learned earlier this week that pumpkin, or more specifically the pepitas (or seeds) are, according to Mexican folklore, know to cure freckles! If I would have known that earlier in life, you can guarantee that I would have eaten a handful of pepitas everyday!  So in hoping that the pumpkin itself will lend the same skin transforming benefits, I have made quite a long list of pumpkin flavored treats to make over the next couple of months- I hope most of you enjoy this fall favorite as much as I do! To kick things off, I decided to begin the pumpkin-palooza with a savory soup recipe. 

I've actually made a version of this soup before, two Thanksgivings ago, and it seemed to be a pretty big hit. This time around, however, I changed up the recipe a bit by adding in a couple more ingredients- parsnip, turnip, white wine, and a touch of brown sugar- to give it more depth of flavor. Those of you unfamiliar with cooking with pumpkins, sugar pumpkins are best for food related purposes.  They work well in both savory or sweet recipes, pairing nicely with either rosemary, salty cheeses, and mushrooms, or honey, maple, and cinnamon. When buying sugar pumpkins, look for ones that are firm, feel heavy for their size, and have dull, not glossy skin. 

Last time, I prepared the soup using a food processor, a perfectly fine method, but I'm always looking for excuses to buy myself a new toy for the kitchen! Currently living in New York City has me on a pretty tight budget, but I felt I could justify the purchase of a new kitchen gadget, in this case a food mill, because one of my goals of this blog is to learn and implement new techniques and I figure this will hardly be the only time I use it- an investment in my culinary future! The purpose of a food mill is to properly puree the soup, making for a much smoother texture, but if you prefer a thicker soup, I would use the food processor (a blender or hand blender would work well too) approach.  Just note though, if you do decide to use a food mill, and you have one with various sized disks (fine, medium and coarse), stick with the medium. I goofed and used the fine disc and my soup was a little thin for my liking. 

I will admit that the garnish for this soup wasn't completely my idea. I stole the concept from an episode of Iron Chef America (best show ever!). I don't remember exactly what garnish was used, but I do know it sparked the idea for what I use here in this recipe: chives, shiitake mushrooms, and... bacon. (Do they have rehab groups for bacon addicts? Hi, I'm Karlie and I'm a pork-a-holic.) This year I also decided to add a drizzle of goat cheese cream. It's definitely not essential to the dish, but I think it adds a nice color contrast and hits on another note of flavor. Also, it might interest some of you to know that this soup freezes particularly well.  Skip the last step of adding in the cream, and store in air tight containers in the freezer for up to two months. Add the cream when reheating over a medium-high stove top. I think this soup makes for a great way to start a Thanksgiving meal, but it's also a great way to begin the fall season.

Savory Pumpkin Soup

1 small sugar pumpkin, halved, seeds and stringy fibers removed and reserved
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
1/2 cup water
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 small parsnip (about 3 ounces), peeled and coarsely chopped
1 apple, peeled and coarsely chopped* (see note) 

2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 small turnip (about 3 ounces), peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 white onion
1 small shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)* (see note)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon packed light-brown sugar
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste 

(garnish and goat cheese drizzle below)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place pumpkin halves, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until soft, about 50 minutes. Scoop out flesh, and puree in a food processor (you should have 2 cups).

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add reserved seeds and fibers from pumpkin, and cook for 4 minutes. Add stock, water, and thyme, and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 9 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pumpkin puree, parsnip, apple, carrots, turnip, and onion, and cook for 5 minutes. Add shallots, and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add wine, and cook until liquid has reduced by half, about 4-5 minutes.

Strain pumpkin-seed mixture, reserving broth and discarding solids. Add broth to pumpkin-wine mixture. Bring to a simmer; cook 20 minutes. Let cool for 45 minutes to an hour.

Pass soup through a food mill into a clean saucepan, or puree in a food processor in small batches until smooth. (If soup does not reach desired consistency using a food processor, press it through a fine sieve to remove any remaining lumps.) 

Heat soup in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in cream, sugar, salt, and pepper, ladle into individual bowls, and top with garnish (below).

For the garnish and goat cheese drizzle:

6 slices of center-cut bacon, chopped
10 oz shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1/4 chives, minced
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 oz goat cheese
salt and pepper
a dash of nutmeg

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium high heat; add the bacon and saute until crispy. Remove the bacon to a plate topped with paper towels, reserving the grease in the pan. Add the mushrooms and saute until browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Remove mushrooms from pan, place in a shallow bowl, add the bacon, and mix to combine.

Meanwhile, heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, and reduce by half. Add the goat cheese and stir until combined. Season the cream mixture with salt and pepper to taste, and add just a dash of nutmeg. 

Garnish each bowl with about a tablespoon of bacon-mushroom mixture, a teaspoon of chopped chives, and teaspoon or two of the goat cheese cream mixture. Serve immediately. 

Makes 6 to 8 servings

*Note: I used a Honey Crisp apple, a sweeter variety as compared to ones like the Granny Smith. Also, instead of using both an onion and a shallot, one could use a whole white onion, skipping the shallot all together. I just happen to like the mild, garlicky flavor shallots tend to have. 


  1. Looks delicious for a cold fall afternoon.

  2. I loved your last pumpkin soup recipe and if this is even better, I can't wait to taste it! With all your references to loving bacon, people who don't know you will think you are overweight......and you are not! But you do love the bacon, though!