Pumpkin Soup with Browned Butter

Move over lattes, it's time to get real with pumpkins. This soup recipe is based on Thomas Keller's famous Butternut Squash Soup with Browned Butter, but we think it's better, because...pumpkin. There are a few more steps to this than your standard soup recipe, but it's worth it. Make it a day ahead for best results. However, you can do it the same day if you leave yourself a couple of hours of chilling time. See notes at the end of the recipe...

 INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 x 3-to-3 1/2-pound sugar pumpkin (you can use kabocha squash or butternut, too) 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs sage
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leeks (up to the pale green bit only)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced carrots
  • ½ cup thinly sliced shallots
  • ½ cup thinly sliced onions
  • 8 medium garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 6 cups vegetable stock, more if needed
  • Bouquet Garni made of 8 sprigs thyme, 1 sprig of sage, 2 bay leaves and 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, all wrapped in a packet made of 2 green leek leaves
  • ¼ cup crème fraîche or sour cream 
  •  Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives 
  •  Extra-virgin olive oil

METHOD

Day before or on the morning of:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the pumpkin into quarters, scoop out the seeds, putting one quarter aside. 

Brush three of the quarter pieces inside and out with 1.5 teaspoons of the olive oil, sprinkle the flesh with salt and pepper and place flesh side down (as best you can) on the baking sheet and roast for about an hour or until completely tender. 

While the pumpkin is roasting, peel the skin from the uncooked quarter of pumpkin and cut the flesh into 1.5 inch pieces. 

Remove the squash from the oven and let cool, then scoop out and reserve the flesh.

Heat the remaining oil in a stockpot over medium-high, add the leeks, carrots, shallots and onions and cook, stirring often, for 4-6 minutes.

Add the raw pumpkin, garlic cloves, 1.5 teaspoons salt, and 0.5 teaspoon of ground pepper and cook gently for a few minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to keep the garlic from browning.

Add in the honey or maple syrup and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes.

Add the stock and bouquet garni and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender.

Add the roasted squash and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and discard the bouquet garni. Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches, and purée. Or use an immersion blender. Strain the soup through a fine sieve into a bowl. You'll be tempted to skip this part, but it really does make for a silkier soup.

Adjust the seasonings and let the soup cool. Refrigerate until ready to serve. This allows the flavours to really blend and mellow.

Whisk the crème fraîche or sour cream in a chilled bowl and stir in fresh grated nutmeg to taste. Cover and refrigerate.

Just before serving...

Gently reheat the soup until just hot, adding more vegetable stock to thin it a bit if you like. 

Heat a medium skillet over high heat. Once it's very hot, add the butter and rotate the skillet over the heat to brown the butter evenly. Scrape up any bits that settle in the bottom. Watch the butter closely. Browned butter can become black butter in a matter of seconds. As soon as the butter is a nutty shade of brown, pour it into the pot of soup and stir to mix. The browned butter is what makes this soup so special, so don't be tempted to omit it! 

Ladle the soup into serving bowls and top each with a dollop of nutmeggy crème fraîche. Grind some black pepper over the top and sprinkle on the chives. Drizzle olive oil over the top.

Notes:

You can use butternut squash, kabocha or other pumpkins/squash. Just stay away from more watery varieties. 

You can use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock.

Sour cream works in lieu of crème fraîche, just remember it will taste more sour. 

Fresh herbs are ideal. 

The Staub cast iron pumpkin cocotte pictured at the top is perfect for heating and serving this soup. It goes from stovetop to table and, well...it's gorgeous!