Caramelized Pumpkin Soup

Caramelized Pumpkin Soup 4

I’m not usually one for molecular gastronomy – it requires too much precision and expensive equipment for me – but ever since I first tried it I’ve been a huge fan of the caramelized carrot soup put together by the mad scientists over at Modernist Cuisine.

Despite a minimal list of ingredients and uncomplicated instructions, the soup has a depth of flavor that is unparalleled by any conventional recipe. Rather than try to explain their culinary techno-magic myself, here’s the secret straight from the source:

It’s the pressure-cooking that really allows the flavors of this soup to flourish. The flavors are a combination of caramelization and the Maillard reaction (what people commonly call “browning”), which produces a rich, caramelized, nutty flavor. Pressure cookers are particularly suited for promoting the Maillard reaction because elevated temperatures encourage foods to develop their characteristic flavors…

As it so happens, this neat little science trick works on more than just carrots. Using a pressure cooker to caramelize the pumpkin as it cooks causes it to develop wonderful richness and complexity that ordinary pumpkin soups just cannot match. Even better, it’s done with just a hint of butter and no milk or cream.

Served with delightfully spiced and ever-so-sweet cider-poached pears and crunchy pumpkin seeds, this soup is the perfect decadent autumn treat!

Caramelized Pumpkin Soup (serves 4)

Equipment

  • Pressure cooker
  • Food processor

Soup Ingredients

  • 1 small pie pumpkin, peeled and diced (4-5 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, diced
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

Accompaniment Ingredients

  • Seeds from the pumpkin, cleaned and dried
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 large pear, peeled and cut into 1/2 cubes
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups spiced apple cider
  • 4-6 sage leaves

Instructions

  1. Combine all the soup ingredients except the vegetable stock in the pressure cooker and stir a few times until they are evenly distributed. Set the pressure cooker to high and cook for 25 minutes.
  2. While the soup ingredients are cooking, toss the pumpkin seeds with the olive oil, salt and cayenne pepper. Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees and spread the seeds out on a baking sheet covered with aluminum foil. Place the baking sheet in the oven and cook the seeds for 30-40 minutes, until they are crispy and lightly browned.
  3. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in a small sauce pan. Add the cider and arrange the cubed pears so they are completely submerged. Bring the cider to a light simmer and then reduce to medium-low heat. Continue to cook at just below a simmer for 25 -30 minutes. The pears should be softened, but not mushy, when done.
  4. When the soup ingredients are finished in the pressure cooker transfer them to the food processor and blend until smooth. Combine the pumpkin puree and vegetable stock in a large pot and whisk together until evenly incorporated. Bring the soup to a low simmer and then remove from the heat.
  5. Add a dash of olive oil to a small skillet and heat to medium-high. Fry the sage leaves until crispy, but not browned – about 2 minutes. Remove them to a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.
  6. To serve, ladle some soup into a shallow bowl or plate. Arrange a handful of the poached pear nibs in the center and place one or two sage leaves on top. Finish with a dusting of pumpkin seeds around the edge.
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