Monday, November 14, 2016

Potage au Potiron




     Pumpkin Soup!
     When pumpkin is not sweetened as a dessert, it has a very nice winter squash flavor.  Pumpkin does have a light natural sweetness of its own, but it is not overbearing.
     There are many varieties of pumpkin.  The orange hybrid pumpkin that is associated with Halloween is the most popular.  Many lesser known heirloom pumpkin varieties are called calabaza.  Calabaza have been a native food staple since ancient times and most varieties were hybridized on a local or regional level.
     Calabaza tend to have more flavor than orange hybrid pumpkins.  I used a piece of Mexican calabaza to make today's recipe.  This calabaza had a tan color skin and the squash meat was a dark rusty orange color.  The ridges on the outside of the calabaza were "deep V" shaped.
     A potage originally was a peasant style coarse thick soup or stew of vegetables and grain.  Meat or fruit was sometimes added, but most were made with only vegetables that the indentured servants were allowed to keep.
     Vegetables and grain potage was what most peasants ate during the Middle Ages of European history.  When the unified modern French cuisine trend began in the late 1700's, many chefs refined the old peasant style potage recipes.  The addition of whole milk and using puree techniques resulted in a modern farm style potage that was more like a thick rich cream soup.
     Today's pumpkin soup certainly is thick and rich.  Potage au Potiron is a perfect choice for a chilly early winter day.  The crunchy cinnamon croutons add a nice touch!
  
     Potage au Potiron:
     This recipe yields about 4 1/2 cups.  (2 large bowls)   
     In keeping with its peasant heritage, a potage is usually prepared in one pot.  A modern potage can be thickened with roux or it can be left as is and served as a coarse thin puree.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Add 1/3 cup of finely chopped onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Gently sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 2:  Add 3 cups of light chicken broth.
     Add 2 cups of minced peeled seeded pumpkin or calabaza flesh.  (The pumpkin can be minced in a food processor.)
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the soup to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Gently simmer the soup for a few minutes till the minced pumpkin is tender.
     Step 5:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour while constantly stirring with a whisk to make a roux.  (The roux should be shiny, not caky.)
     Constantly stir till the roux is a blonde color.
     Slowly add the hot roux to the soup while stirring.
     Stir till the soup thickens.
     Step 6:  Add 1 cup of milk.
     Add 1/2 cup of cream.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the soup is a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.  The finished volume should be about 4 1/2 cups.
     Step 7:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Keep the potage warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.

     Cinnamon Croutons:
     This recipe yields 2 garnish portions.  (About 3/4 cup)
     Step 1:  Trim the crust off of 1 or 2 slices of stale French bread.
     Cut the sliced bread into 3/8" diced cube shaped pieces.  (About 3/4 cup is needed for 2 garnish portions.)
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
     Add the bread cubes.
     Sauté and toss till the croutons are toasted light golden brown.
     Step 3:  Place the croutons in a mixing bowl.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of cinnamon on the croutons while tossing them in the bowl.
     Set the cinnamon croutons aside.
 
     Presentation:
     Ladle 2 cups of the Potage au Potiron into a large soup bowl.
     Float about 1/3 cup of cinnamon croutons on top of the soup as a garnish.
  
     This pumpkin potage is comfortable, savory and rich tasting!  The buttery unsweetened cinnamon croutons add a nice texture.

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