A chill in the air and a squash soup at the ready

By Jim Bailey

I  have been turning on the AC during the day and touching the thermostat at night. Only in New England! During the night I am in the mood for something warm and comfortable but during the day, I really don’t want spice. At least not yet. So what to do? Here are two soups that conjure New England better than any starter I know of. Pumpkin and squash. Since both vegetables are at every roadside stand you pass, allow me to give you their best in both flavor and heat.

Yanked “Apple-nut” Soup

Apple-nut is a Yanked term meaning the confluence of apple and butternut. Yanked is my word for taking a particularly difficult dish that you see Michelin-star chefs prepare or television “chefs” put together, and simplifying it so that you can make it at home. The flavor is still extraordinary but the ingredient list is much smaller and the method of preparation is simpler. So I Yanked it and put it back in the culinary arena.

1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, peeled and minced
1 t. chili powder, preferably chipotle chili powder
2 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks (about 6 c.)
1 lb. apples, peeled and cut into chunks
1 c. apple juice or preferably cider (more if necessary)
1 c. chicken broth
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
Croutons, optional
Sour cream or plain yogurt, optional
Parsley, optional

Heat oil and butter in large pot; add onion and chili powder; cook and stir until onions are tender, about eight minutes.

Top photo: Yanked Apple-Nut Soup.
Bottom photo: Curried Pumpkin Soup with ham bits.

Add squash, apples (saving some to garnish upon presentation), apple juice, chicken broth, salt and pepper; bring to boil. Cover and cook on low heat until apples and squash are very soft, about 30 minutes. Cool. Puree in a blender (in batches) or a food processor; return to saucepan. Add more apple juice or broth, if needed. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream, thin apple chunks, parsley and croutons, if desired.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

I have often served this delicious soup prepared as directed below. But if it is any easier, just use two pumpkins for the soup and serve in a bowl. For those of you who don’t wish to go through the hassle of preparing fresh pumpkin, simply use 4 (14 oz.) cans of pureed, pure pumpkin.

4 medium pumpkins (2-3 lbs. each), as soup tureens for serving and soup or bowl
2 c. chicken broth
1 c. water
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 t. minced jalapeno chili
1 t. cinnamon
2 t. curry powder (see recipes below)
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. dried ginger
1 c. heavy cream
2 oz. thinly sliced ham, julienned
1 T. butter or margarine
Crème fraiche or sour cream, optional
Croutons, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Cut two medium pumpkins in half. Reserve large pumpkin for use as soup tureen. Scoop out seeds and place skin-side down on baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until soft. Scoop out pumpkin flesh into food processor and puree until smooth. Pour pureed pumpkin into saucepan and add chicken broth, water, maple syrup, jalapeno and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, cut the top off the large pumpkin to create the serving bowl. The hole should be wide enough to fit a ladle. Hollow out seeds. Remove soup from heat and stir in heavy cream. Pour soup into large pumpkin and serve garnished with toasted pumpkin crème fraiche or sour cream and dot with a scant teaspoon of minced jalapeno chilies.
Over high heat with 1 T. butter or margarine, sear julienned ham just until browned over high heat. You want them crisp and slightly blackened. Drain and dab each bowl with a large pinch of ham and sprinkle croutons over the top.

Depending on how rich you want it, or how cold it is outside, you can use yogurt, mascarpone or half-and-half in place of heavy cream. Just remember, the thicker the dairy product you use, the thicker the soup will be.

The Truth about Curry

When you buy curry in the supermarket, know that it is not a single spice, but rather a combination of many. There is no hard and fast rule when creating your own curry. The Yankee Chef has his own special blend that I think is generally accepted and enjoyed. Not too much heat or too sweet, but a flavor that touches all areas of the palate. Of course you can buy a pre-made curry powder and it may be simpler, but after only 3 or 4 attempts many years ago, I was able to pin each spice to the correct proportions.

Now for that chilly night, when the thought of curling up with a good book and some woolies can be seen around the corner:

The Yankee Chef’s Curry Powder

As you will notice, I have not added cinnamon, although it is classically found in most curry powders.
1 T. cumin seeds
1 T. mustard seeds
1 T. coriander seeds
1 T. fennel seeds
1 T. turmeric powder
1 T. chili powder

Put the first four ingredients in a dry skillet over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until lightly browned and fragrant, about four to five minutes. Remove from the heat, cool slightly and add to a blender, coffee grinder or food processor along with the chili and turmeric powders. Grind until powder is formed.  Here is a more traditional curry powder recipe.

Traditional Curry Powder

1 T. coriander seeds
1 T. black peppercorns
1/2 t. dried cardamom pods
1 t. fenugreek seeds
1 t. chili powder
1 T. turmeric powder
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1 T. powdered ginger

Put the first three ingredients in a dry skillet over medium heat. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally until lightly browned and fragrant – about four to five minutes. The last minute, add the fenugreek seeds and toast an additional minute. Remove from heat, cool slightly and add to a blender, coffee grinder or food processor along with the last four ingredients. Grind until powder is formed throughout.

Shawn Cunningham’s Wine Recommendation

There are two kinds of spicy. There’s the spicy that’s hot and the spicy that’s full of the flavor of spices – many like nutmeg and cinnamon that are not hot. For a “hot” dish, the best wines are a bit sweet like the wines of Vouvray in the Loire Valley. These act as a counter to the heat while accenting the flavor. For dishes that have a lot of spices – like curries – an aromatic wine like a Riesling. If you are making a very hot, curry flavored dish, it would be hard to beat a lower alcohol (thus sweeter) Gewurztraminer.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeThe Yankee Chef

About the Author: Jim Bailey is a third generation Yankee Chef, New England food historian and newspaper columnist. His first cookbook, simply titled The Yankee Chef, has been published. He welcomes all feedback, questions or comments at theyankeechef@aol.com.

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Comments are closed.