It's the Great Pumpkin Soup, Charlie Brown

andy mueller | in the kitchen with chef andy | oct. 2017

Every spring I promise myself I'm going to do more while the weather is warm. Every October, while I'm raking leaves and carving pumpkins, I kick myself for not doing more while the weather was nice. As the leaves change I enjoy the beauty and don't really think about the weather to come, but as they fall to the ground and cover my lawn, my demeanor ebbs as I officially push aside the thoughts of golf and water activity and replace them with "to do lists" and projects.

I've come to the conclusion that I hit the "Fall Wall" when I see the first pumpkin on the porch as I pull in the driveway. If the sight of the first pumpkin isn't enough, frost looming on the horizon is the clincher and the thought of reaching a par five in two is all but over until next spring.

After I mentally pack the clubs away, I take comfort in the fact that fall really is a season to embrace. Chilly nights are welcomed as a crockpot full of a classic beef or pork roast warms us to the bones. Winds whistling under cracks in the door are muffled by the oohs and ahhs of a brood in the mood for heart warming soups like potato leek, a hearty chili or one of my favorite soups that fit the season, pumpkin soup.

Those who turn their nose to a bowl of this slightly sweet, savory and almost spicy mélange of fall flavors don't realize this isn't pumpkin pie in a cup. Pumpkins aren't sweet until we make them that way. It is a squash and acts that way in any from until sugar is added.

Like any good soup, or sauce for that matter, a good stock is required. There are a lot of options out there, and when it comes down to it, buy the best you can afford. If the main ingredient is salt, run away. These powders or lesser quality stocks are nothing more than chicken "flavored." They may have been made when a chicken might have been in the area, or it may have run through the pot on the way to the hen house, but stay away if at all possible. Pastes are the best (as long as chicken is the first ingredient) as you can add water at your discretion to make the stock as strong or as weak as you like. If you purchase stock in a can or box, it's fine, but all you can really do is dilute it to make it weaker, you can't make it stronger unless you add paste, which in turn makes it useless to buy it already made.

The kicker to a good pumpkin soup is just that ... the kicker, the heat, the zip in the zupa! When you tie together sweet and savory flavors, it usually reaches a euphoric level when a little heat is added, whether in liquid or dry form. I like to use Tabasco sauce in the recipe as the perfect balance of vinegar and heat add the profile I desire in a pumpkin soup. Toss in a little Asiago cheese to mellow the flavors with its nutty background, finish it with a little heavy cream to make it rich and creamy, and you a have a flavor of fall that screams comfort, and makes this time of year a smashing success.

Pumpkin Soup

In a soup kettle over medium heat add:

2 tablespoons butter until it starts to foam, then add:

1 small onion, diced

2 strips bacon, uncut

Saute the bacon strips onions until onions start to sweat (five minutes). Remove bacon from pan, discard or save for a BLT you're craving right now.

Add to the kettle:

6 cups chicken stock

Bring to a boil then add:

4 cups pureed pumpkin

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup honey

3 tablespoon creamy peanut butter

5-7 dashes Tabasco sauce

2 cups heavy cream

Bring ingredients to a simmer. You can adjust the consistency of the soup by making it thicker by adding more pumpkin puree, thinner by adding more stock. Before serving, whisk into the soup:

1/2 cup shredded Asiago or grated Parmesan cheese. The cheese will provide enough salt to the soup but feel free to add a pinch to explode the flavors. Add white pepper or more Tabasco for extra heat. Top with toasted pumpkin seeds and serve immediately. Enjoy!

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