Posts Tagged ‘parmesan’

Breaking the Rules -or- The Great Pumpkin Soup

September 22, 2013

proasted

When it comes to preparing recipes, no matter where you look, be it the pages of a magazine to cookbooks to celebrity TV chefs, EVERYONE says the same thing:

“When entertaining guests, don’t prepare something you’ve never made before.”

I realize we’ve got ourselves a double negative there, and perhaps that’s the crux of it; somewhere in my mathematically handicapped brain, two negatives make a positive. (Right?)

So that, dear friends, is why I decided it was a marvelous idea to A) Purchase a whole pumpkin at the Pepper Place Farmers’ Market; B) Hack into said pumpkin, jack-o-lantern style; C) Fill the sucker up with broth and cheese and spicy goodness; and D) Roast the whole thing in the oven until it became an edible tureen. Oh, and E) serve it to company.

pwhole

I’d seen a recipe years back and had been dying to try it out. So what that I was breaking the essential entertaining maxim of “cook what you know.” I mean, what could possibly go wrong while roasting a 10-pound gourd full of boiling liquid?

Let’s take a moment, shall we, and stop to ponder the amazing amount of potential mischief that could ensue from such an endeavor:

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #1:
The pumpkin could collapse while roasting in the oven, dousing the heating elements with 7 to 9 cups of broth, cheese, and bread crumbs, which undoubtedly would find a way to catch fire, resulting in much cursing and requiring the procurement of a shop-vac.

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #2:
The pumpkin could collapse at the table, resulting in a tsunami of lava broth splashing into the laps of my guests, yielding at least second-degree burns, much yelling, and a potential head injury to a certain cross-eyed feline, who, when scalded by said broth splashdown, would take off like a cat rocket, likely straight into a wall or chair leg.

Mischief Nightmare Scenario #3:
Upon finishing cutting the top off my pumpkin, I could have lifted the lid to discover it full of black widow spiders, which would have resulted in yours truly suffering an instant, massive, and undoubtedly fatal heart attack.*

But none of these things happened. Well…to be fair, the pumpkin did leak a little broth, but not a calamitous amount. The soup was savory, rich, and comforting…a perfect bowl of fall goodness. Here’s what you need, and how to pull it off without injuring your friends and/or visually handicapped pets.

Whole-Roasted Pumpkin Soup
Yield: 4 to 8 servings 

1 (6 to 8-pound) cinderella or cheese pumpkin

¼ cup butter, softened

1 teaspoon ground fennel (or ½ tsp ground cumin)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup shredded gruyere cheese

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup finely ground fresh bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

5 to 7 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Garnish: Parmesan cheese 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

pscoop

2. Cut the top off your pumpkin, and scape out all the seeds and stringy bits (like you would if carving a jack-o-lantern). Note: Do NOT carve a face into your pumpkin. Doing so would result in your pumpkin barfing soup out of its mouth, which is a novel yet impractical method of serving the soup.

pcarved

3. Once all the stringy bits are gone (from the lid, too), rub the insides of the pumpkin with butter, and sprinkle evenly with fennel, paprika, and cayenne pepper.** Lightly season with salt and pepper. Place the pumpkin on the prepared pan off-center, leaving enough space on the pan for the lid, eventually (we’ll get to that in a minute).

4. Add cheese, bread crumbs, and garlic. Add broth, filling to within 3 inches of pumpkin rim. (At this point, I’ll be honest; it looks pretty nasty. Just push through.) Place the lid on your pumpkin, pop her in the oven to roast for 1 hour.

MISCHIEF ALERT:
When filled with the broth and all that cheesy spicy goodness, this pumpkin is HEAVY. Move it mindfully, and use full-on oven mitts if you have them. Imagine the horror of burning your hand on the pan, hollering like a big woman, then flinging the hot-lava-pumpkin bomb into the air, spraying your walls (and your cat) with molten cheese and broth. Yeah. So be careful.

5. After an hour, remove the lid, and place it on the baking sheet, bottom side up.  Continue roasting until the pumpkin is tender, 30 to 60 minutes. (You can test this by poking the lid with a fork.) Here’s how she looks after roasting:

proasted

Ta-da! To serve, ladle the broth into bowls. Then, using a spoon and starting near the rim of the pumpkin, gently scrape out spoonfuls of pumpkin, and divide among bowls. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Garnish with extra cheese, of course.

pbowl2

And that, friends, is it. Do I recommend that you tackle this project for a major event without practicing the recipe first? If I were editing this recipe for Taste of the South magazine, I’d caution no. But you know what? This is Kitchen Mischief, so why the hell not? It’s really not that hard. Just follow the instructions, and be careful.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, this soup is 110% baby approved! Precious Moment herself, Miss Harper Elaine Walker, commandeered her mother’s portion, exclaiming “More! More!” until there was nary a drop left. Mischief accomplished. J

pharper

*So, about the spiders. A long time ago, somebody told me a story about picking up a discarded jack-o-lantern from their yard, only to find it infested with black widow spiders. Oh, the humanity!!! That horrific image is SEARED into my imagination, hence my irrational fear that any seemingly innocent pumpkin could be a WSD (Weapon of Squirrel Destruction).

**Don’t feel hemmed in by my spice choices. Curry powder would be great, as would a good rich chili powder.

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, More!

December 15, 2009

A spoonful of Giada's love

Normally, I don’t trust a skinny, Italian chef.  I expect someone with a little “meat” on their bones.  It shows me that they make great food and eat well.  And that’s okay; it’s how it should be.  However, Giada De Laurentiis has changed my mind.  She’s skinny, beautiful and makes amazing dishes.  I do admit that it does annoy me that she continues to stay skinny.  I would say bring her to the South and we would fatten her up with some good southern cooking, but I think she is showing us a thing or two about making southern dishes even better.  This recipe for mashed potatoes with parmesan and mozzarella took my favorite side dish to the next level.       

This last Sunday Ray and I hosted our neighborhood’s Christmas dinner.  We were planning on 15 people and so I wanted to make dishes that were easy but could be made in advance (only have one oven and limited space).  This recipe fit the description perfectly.  You can actually prepare and chill this for 6 hours ahead of time, perfect for party planning.  My friend Rob and I made a few adjustments to Giada’s recipe to fit our taste.  We doubled the recipe because the amount of people but I kept the recipe for 6-8 servings.  Here’s how you make it.  

Mashed Potatoes with Parmesan and Mozzarella
1 tablespoon butter
4 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
1 cup whole milk
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
¼ cup sour cream  
1 ½ cups grated mozzarella
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs    

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter and set aside. Cook the potatoes and garlic in a large pot of boiling salted water until they are very tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain; return the potatoes to the same pot and mash well.       

Old-fashion manual mashing

 Mix in the milk, melted butter and sour cream.   

Bring on the butter and milk!

 Mix in the mozzarella and 3/4 cup of the Parmesan. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish. Stir the bread crumbs and remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the mashed potatoes. (Recipe can be prepared up to this point 6 hours ahead of time; cover and chill.) Bake, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.       

Ready for the oven

  Potato Tips:
#1 – W hen peeling potatoes, put a paper towel in the bottom of the sink to keep    

Potato Tip #1

from clogging the drain.  Simply pull up the paper towel and discard peelings.  By the way, potato peels are not good for the disposal.
#2 – When boiling potatoes, always start with cold, salted water.  Starting in hot water makes the potatoes gooey. 
#3 – If you don’t like the manual mashing, do what my friend Rob does and use the blender or Kitchen-Aide mixer.