Friday, September 30, 2011

Pumpkin season: a family recipe

It is that time of the year again. The weather is getting chillier, cloudy days are more numerous, the leaves start to slowly turn. Mostly reds this early, but soon in that great palette of browns, yellows, reds, greyish, purple,... But the most unmistakable sign that fall is here, is the number of pumpkin beers appear on the shelves of our preferred liquor stores or bars.

One of the things that most surprised me when I made the voyage across the Atlantic to settle here, was Thanksgiving. Let no one ever dare to even think that Americans have no culture. I will point to the lavish Thanksgiving meal, with all it's delights as celebrated virtually all over the 50 states in similar fashion, right before I stuff their bellies. Standing out was the pumpkin pie. Served slightly chilled, with a nice layer of frothy whipped cream, is a taste of heaven. I must confess I repeatedly over-indulged on this treat.

Pumpkin beers is another new thing, one I am still warming up to. Some are just horrific experiments with a taste of vegetables that I prefer in a more solid form, on my plate, with a beer to accompany them without any such off-flavor like smell and taste. Others are actually quite enjoyable, Punkin Ale by Dogfish Head as an example. I have a Southern Tier Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale in the fridge, waiting to be sampled. (What pumpkin or fall beers are your favorites? Leave me a comment and let me know what to try next!)

In this great Pumpkin Onslaught I cannot forget to mention that great pumpkin launching festival and competition, called Punkin' Chunkin'. Trebuchets, air cannons, catapults, torsion catapults, centrifugal, and human powered launching platforms are constructed by fans from all over the country, who gather early November to test 1 thing: who can chuck that pumpkin the furthest? Crazy, but awesome! If you want to combine beer, pumpkins, that Roman or Medieval or engineering side of you that rarely has a chance to shine, this is definitely the event for you.

But let's add a traditional flavor from the old world, with a family recipe for a great pumpkin soup! Rich, thick, creamy, it is a perfect meal to nourish you and heat you up when coming in, that autumn chill in your bones. And yes, pumpkin beer pairs well.

So here goes:
For 3-4 people:
*a 12-15 lbs pumpkin
*8-10 strips of bacon
* 6oz. of heavy cream
*1 roll of Pillsbury Crescent Seamless Dough Sheet
*1 medium sized yellow onion
*(1/2 lbs of ground beef, optional)
*salt, pepper, powdered nutmeg and allspice, dried basil flakes

-Cut the pumpkin in 4 parts, remove the seeds and inner soft parts
-Cut the parts in thinner strips, which you then peel (potato peeler is a great tool)
-Cut the strips in cubes, about 1inch square.
-Place the pumpkin cubes in a large cooking pot, and add just a shallow bottom of water
-Cook on the stove for 30 minutes on medium-high, closed with a lid.
-Add pepper, salt, some nutmeg, allspice and basil
-Brown yellow onions and add them as well.
-After half hour (or when the cubes are soft) puree the cubes and onion. (I use an electrical hand mixer) so you get a thick, homogeneous liquid.

Pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, Punkin Ale. Life is good!
When the cubes are on the stove, take 8-10 strips of bacon, cut them in small pieces, and bake them crisp in a pan, and keep them apart (only add them after mixing, one can also add very small pre-cooked balls of ground beef). Take a tube of Pillsbury Crescent Seamless Dough Sheet, place on an oven sheet, cut with a long knife or pizza cutter in cubes, half an inch for each side, sprinkle salt, pepper and dried basil flakes on top, and place in the oven for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Now add the bacon to the soup, bring to taste with some more salt/spices per your own taste, and serve at your table. Pour some heavy cream in the soup on your plate, garnish with the baked dough squares, and some parsley or something to add some green. Voila! Enjoy!

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