14 January 2010

Pumpkin soup

When our son was but a baby, we went on a road trip. We rented a van with some good friends, piled in to the van, 2 men, 2 women (one pregnant) and one baby. Our plan was to drive from Baltimore to Québec City in two days, stopping part way through day 2 in Montréal. It only sort of worked out that way.

It seemed everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. There were no vacant hotels along the freeway going north. None. Apparently the construction going on in northern Pennsylvania and upstate New York was so busy that every hotel along the freeway was full of construction workers. So we soldiered on, further and further north. Later and later into the night. We got crankier and more uncomfortable. We crossed the border into Canada around 3 in the morning, and the border guard was extremely suspicious. He asked for proof that we had enough food for our baby and we had toys to keep him entertained. Did he think we were baby smugglers? Or was he just lonely, and had nothing better to do at this empty border crossing at 3 a.m.?

On we went. We exchanged drivers around 4 in the morning, and I drove. Everyone else passed out. That's when I noticed that our van was flying. It had stopped touching the ground, and we were hurtling down the freeway, floating in the light, making record time. It took me a few minutes to realize I was hallucinating on this desolate stretch of highway. We had to stop.

So stop we did, in a tiny hotel in a dodgy hotel in a small town in Ontario. They had only one room that we would all have to share. We checked in around 5:30 in the morning, relieved that we would finally go to bed. That's when the baby woke up... I think we managed about 3 hours of sleep each, before getting back in the car to go to Montréal. We had dinner reservations that we had to meet - dinner reservations at Au Pied de Cochon.

One of the first dishes we had at Au Pied de Cochon, was their pumpkin soup with foie gras. If this were the only dish we had there, this would have been one of the best dinners of my life. Rich and porky. Sweet and creamy. With a seared chunk of foie in the middle of it. O rapturous day! This was worth everything in that hallucinogenic trek through upstate New York. And happily, the recipe for it is in the book, Au Pied de Cochon: The Album.

We made a slightly modified version of it this year for the first course for our New Year's Eve dinner:
2 small pumpkins (whole)
10 cloves garlic (peeled)
1 medium onion (thinly sliced)
3½ oz parmesan cheese (grated)
2 oz slice fresh foie gras
1 cup pork stock
1⁄5 cup heavy cream
½ cup olive oil
2 branches fresh rosemary
salt and freshly ground pepper
Open up the pumpkins, and scoop out the seeds.


Place the rosemary, garlic, onion and olive oil into the pumpkins. Cover the pumpkins with foil and roast in the oven 375°F for one hour (or until the pumpkin becomes tender - larger pumpkins will require more time).

Gutted pumpkin

Scoop the roasted flesh out of one of the pumpkins, and place in the blender. Blend the pumpkin flesh, onions and garlic until smooth. Pour the pulped goo into a pot on low heat. Add the cream, parmesan and pork stock, stirring until hot and smooth (careful, this is a thick soup, and the bubbles that come out of it will be big, gloppy, splash on your hand and leave a mark that will take 2 weeks to heal - I'm just sayin'). Salt and pepper to taste (kind of a lot of salt). Serve the soup in the reserved pumpkin.

Meanwhile, slice the foie gras into thin pieces (one per bowl). Quickly sear the foie on each side in a dry pan over high heat. Just long enough to brown it. Add the pieces of seared foie to the pumpkin soup in the pumpkin, or alternatively, give each person a piece of foie in their soup bowl. Any additional foie gras grease in the pan can be added back to the soup for deliciousness.

Pumpkin soup

Serve and be amazed. Delish.

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