(Apolitical) Pumpkin Soup

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Halloween may be over, but pumpkins are still in season throughout November. I have a bounty of great recipes to share with you, like this gorgeous - and delicious - pumpkin soup that I featured in my Forum column two years ago, right before the 2016 elections.

After witnessing the frenzy and hostility of that campaign season, I decided that the only party I wanted to join moving forward was the Dinner Party. I firmly believe that if more of our leaders made a point to break bread together, regularly, much of the current hostility could be mitigated. In that spirit I named this soup Apolitical Pumpkin Potage.

Because the reality is, no matter who gets elected today, we’ll all still be standing tomorrow, and we’ll all still need to eat. Fortunately, unlike our nation’s politics, a good dinner party never disappoints.

Pumpkin Soup (or Apolitical Pumpkin Potage)
Serves: 6 to 8

Ingredients:
1 sugar or ‘pick a pie’ pumpkin (2-4 lbs.), halved from top to bottom, seeds and pulp removed – OR -
8 ounces of pureed pumpkin from can – pure pumpkin only, no seasonings
1 medium sized onion, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon whole cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (half a stick or 2 ounces)
4 to 6 cups chicken stock, low sodium (32 to 48 ounces)
¾ cup heavy cream
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Garnish with any of the following:

· a dollop of sour cream
· a drizzle of fresh heavy cream
· dried cranberries
· raisins
· roasted pumpkin seeds

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With a sharp knife, remove the pumpkin’s stem and slice pumpkin in half, from top to bottom. Use a sharp spoon to scoop out the seeds and stringy pulp until flesh is smooth. Reserve seeds to roast later if desired.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay each pumpkin half face-side down. Roast until skin is quite soft to the touch (fork tender) and the edges have turned a rich golden brown (not black), about 45 to 60 minutes. Oven temperatures and timing may vary, so start checking for doneness at 40 minutes.

Remove from oven and cool until just ready to handle. Use a spoon to scoop out the flesh, discarding the skins, then set aside.

In a stockpot over medium-low heat, melt the butter then add the onion and celery, stirring until all pieces are coated in butter. Cook over medium-low heat until the vegetables have softened and the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally, being careful not to caramelize the onions, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the pumpkin, spices and 4 cups of chicken stock. Simmer over medium-low to low heat for 45 to 60 minutes until all vegetables are fully softened, adding more stock if mixture becomes too thick.

In the same pot, use a handheld immersion blender to puree the mixture until completely smooth, with no lumps remaining. Strain the mixture into another large pot to remove any extra bits of pulp and ensure a silky consistency.

Add the heavy cream and stir to incorporate, then simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes before serving. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired, starting with a half-teaspoon of salt and a ¼ teaspoon of pepper.

Ladle into serving bowls and garnish as desired.

To store: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Sarah’s Tips:

· For an elegant and festive presentation, carve out small sugar pumpkins to use as serving bowls.

· Add a cup of roasted butternut squash to the mix for even more fall flavor. Be sure to increase the amount of chicken stock accordingly.

· For a sweeter version, add 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or brown sugar when adding the pumpkin.

· Since this soup is pureed, the onions and celery can be roughly chopped into one-inch pieces, or thereabouts.

· Heavy cream is added for its sheen and to build a richer flavor, but may be omitted if desired.

· For a vegetarian option, use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock.

· Some pumpkins are riper than others, so taste the roasted pumpkin to determine its depth of flavor and add some canned pure pumpkin to the soup if needed, starting with half a can and adding more as desired.

· A liquid blender or food processor may also be used to puree the soup.

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