By Lidey Heuck, The New York Times
A bowl of soup may not be a staple on every Thanksgiving table, but as Americans plan for holiday gatherings that are smaller than usual, or even virtual, serving a rich, comforting soup as a first course is an easy way to make sure the meal still feels special and celebratory.
In this recipe for creamy pumpkin soup, canned pumpkin purée is simmered with rosemary, caramelized onions, apple cider and a host of spices, then blended and finished with a bit of cream for a soup that’s brimming with fall flavors. It comes together in under an hour.
If pumpkin pie is on the menu, doubling down with a spiced pumpkin soup to start might seem like overkill, but it’s also an opportunity to showcase the versatility of winter squash. The key is to differentiate the two: The line that separates a savory pumpkin dish from one that tastes like the ubiquitous “pumpkin spice” can be a fine one. This soup uses nutmeg and cloves, along with mild curry powder, but steers clear of cinnamon and ginger in order to plant itself firmly on the savory side of that line.
Together with the aromatics and fresh rosemary, the spices transform canned pumpkin purée, which can be a bit watery and bland, into a sublimely silky and nuanced soup. (On that note, don’t skimp on the cooking time — every last minute works toward concentrating the flavor.) If you happen to stumble upon a pie pumpkin at your farmers market (look for varieties like sugar or Long Island cheese, and stay away from the jack-o’-lanterns), you could consider roasting your own squash. The flavor will be even deeper and more complex.
Unadorned, or with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side, this soup is a satisfying lunch, but for a holiday dinner, a garnish of fried sage leaves or a swirl of cream makes for a festive presentation. Bonus points if you have delicate demitasse cups for serving.
And just a note that this recipe may be made vegan: Substitute olive oil for the butter, full-fat coconut milk for the heavy cream, and vegetable broth for the chicken broth. The soup will have a slight coconut flavor that works beautifully.
Creamy Pumpkin Soup
This recipe turns canned pumpkin purée into a sublimely creamy, aromatic soup that makes for an elegant first course or a satisfying lunch on a cold day. While the combination of pumpkin and fall spices can easily veer in the direction of dessert, the addition of fresh rosemary, garlic, caramelized onions and curry powder plants this soup firmly in the savory camp. Finally, to make this recipe vegan, substitute olive oil for the butter, full-fat coconut milk for the heavy cream, and vegetable broth for the chicken broth. If time and availability allow, consider roasting your own sugar pumpkin for this recipe: The soup will have a deeper, more complex flavor (see Tip).
Yield: 6 servings
Total time: 50 minutes
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary)
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh apple cider (or 3/4 cup apple juice)
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
- 2 (15-ounce) cans pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling), or 3 cups homemade pumpkin purée (see Tip)
- 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, plus more for serving
- Pinch of ground cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more as needed
- 1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for serving
For the Fried Sage Topping (optional):
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 fresh sage leaves
1. In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and rosemary and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly caramelized, about 15 to 20 minutes. If the onions begin browning too quickly, turn the heat to low.
2. Add the maple syrup and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have darkened in color, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the cider and cook, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid is reduced by about half.
3. Add the broth, pumpkin purée, curry powder, nutmeg, cloves, salt and pepper, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook at a full simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching.
4. Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender or food processor and return to the pot (or use an immersion blender). Bring back to a simmer over medium heat, then turn off the heat and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add more broth if the soup is too thick.
5. To make the optional fried sage topping, melt the butter in a small or medium skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the sage leaves and fry until just crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a fork, transfer the sage leaves to a paper towel-lined plate, reserving the butter left behind in the pan.
6. To serve, spoon the soup into individual bowls. Top each serving with 2 fried sage leaves and a drizzle of the reserved butter (if using), or a swirl of cream and pinch of nutmeg. Serve hot.
Tip: To make your own pumpkin purée, heat oven to 425 degrees. Trim the stem from a 4- to 5-pound sugar or “pie” pumpkin, then cut the pumpkin in half through the stem. Scoop out the pulp and seeds and discard. (Or rinse and dry the seeds, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast on a sheet pan in 375-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.) Carefully slice the pumpkin into 1 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Place the wedges on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the pumpkin flesh is very tender when pierced with a fork. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then spoon the flesh into a large bowl, discarding the skins. Mash with a fork until mostly smooth.
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