On a recent visit to La Ferme de la Ruchotte, I enjoyed a velvety soup made from potimarron squash. Monsieur Ménager served his soup with a poached farm egg. One word, sublime! The soup had a delicate flavor and was the most beautiful deep-orange color.
This year I'll be hosting the first "French family" Thanksgiving. L's family will be arriving from the south of France to join us in the celebration. I've ordered my heritage turkey from Monsieur Ménager and think that this soup will be perfect for the first course.
Potimarron is a favorite in France and its flesh is not too sweet and has a delicate flavor of chestnuts. The name comes from Potiron, for pumpkin, and Marron, for chestnut. It is a nice alternative to butternut squash and in addition to being pureed for soup, it can be roasted and served in a warm salad or pureed with carrots for an elegant side dish. It's easy to prepare, just cut it into slices and drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil or brown butter. Add a pinch or two of sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper and roast in a hot oven until nicely caramelized.
roasted potimarron soup
adapted from Bouchon, by Thomas Keller
3 to 3 1/2 pounds of potimarron squash (or butternut squash)
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 sage sprigs
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons honey
6 cups vegetable stock (recipe follows)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup crème fraîche
freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil.
Cut the squash in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Note, if using Butternut squash, cut the neck off the squash and set it aside. Brush each half inside with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and tuck in a sprig of sage into each. Place cut side down on the baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour, or until completely tender.
Remove the squash from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle, then scoop out and reserve the flesh. (discard the sage) If using butternut squash, using a paring knife or sharp vegetable peeler, peel away the skin from the neck of the squash until you reach the bright orange flesh. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces (these will be pureed, so don't be concerned if the pieces are irrigularly shapped). (You should have approximately 4 cups of diced squash.)
Put a drizzle of olive oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat, add the leeks, carrots, shallots, and onions, and cook, stirring often, for about 6 minutes. Add the diced butternut squash if using, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and cook gently for 3 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to keep the garlic and the squash from coloring. Stir in the honey and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and bouquet garni, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 to 14 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
Add the roasted squash and simmer gently for about 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Remove from the heat and discard the bouquet garni.
Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches, and puree. Be careful as the hot soup may splash out of the top of the blender. Strain the soup through a fine strainer into a bowl, tapping the side of the strainer so the soup passes through. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. Let the soup cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls. Top each with a dollop of crème fraîche. Grind some black pepper over the top and garnish with minced chives or sage leaves and a drizzle of brown butter.
for the vegetable stock
From Bouchon, by Thomas Keller
1/2 pounds leeks, white part only well washed and coarsely chopped (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 pound carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
1 1/2 pounds (about 2 large) Spanish onions, coarsely chopped (about 4 1/2 cups)
1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 thyme sprigs
About 1 large bunch Italian parsley sprigs
Cook the vegetables in the olive oil in a medium stockpot over low heat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until softened. Add the bay leaves, thyme, parsley, and enough water to cover. Bring to a gentle simmer, skimming frequently, and cook for 45 minutes.
Prepare an ice bath. Strain the stock through a chinois or fine-mesh sieve into a container and submerge the container in the ice bath. Refrigerate the stock for 1 to 2 days, or freeze in several containers for longer storage.