IMPRESS YOUR GUESTS: Serve spiced pumpkin soup with maple syrup inside roasted pumpkins.
Total time: 2 hours
Note: From Noelle Carter. Grade B maple syrup is preferred for this recipe; it has a richer flavor and is not as highly filtered as Grade A. The mini pumpkins can be roasted several hours ahead. Place the roasted pumpkins in a 250-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes to warm them before filling.
2 poblano chiles
4 tablespoons butter, divided
12 mini (12- to 16-ounce) pumpkins
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
5 pounds pumpkin such as Sugar Pie or American Pie (2 small or 1 medium)
4 ounces apple wood-smoked bacon, about 3 thick slices, cut into 1/4 -inch dice
1 large onion, cut into medium dice
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 to 7 cups chicken broth, divided
1/2 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon New Mexico chile powder
1/2 cup maple syrup, divided
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Tabasco sauce to taste
1 bunch green onions , green parts thinly sliced crosswise, the rest set aside for another use
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Roast the poblano chiles over high heat on a rack on your stove-top burner. When the skin is charred all over, place the peppers in a paper bag. Leave them for about 10 minutes, then remove and peel the skin -- do not rinse. Discard the stem and seeds, and chop the peppers coarsely. Set aside.
3. Prepare the pumpkins: In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over low heat. Remove from the heat and set aside. Cut the top quarter off of each of the 12 pumpkins, as if you are making jack-o'-lanterns, but make the hole wide enough for the pumpkin to work as a soup bowl.
4. With a spoon, clean out, then discard the seeds and pulp. Save the stemmed tops; these will work as "lids." Lightly brush the melted butter onto the inside of each pumpkin and the underside of each top. Lightly season the inside of each pumpkin and the underside of each top with salt and pepper.
5. Place the pumpkins cut-side up on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the pumpkin lids cut-side down on the same sheet, with the lids in the middle of the sheet (they'll cook quicker). You may need to do this in two batches. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, just until the centers are slightly softened and the skins are golden. Do not overbake the pumpkins or they will not support the soup. Set aside.
6. Cut the 5 pounds of pumpkin, unpeeled, into about 1-inch pieces, discarding the seeds, pulp and stem. Set aside.
7. Place the bacon and remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy-bottom stockpot over medium heat. Cook the bacon, stirring occasionally until it just begins to crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the onion, and continue cooking until the onion just begins to caramelize, an additional 12 to 15 minutes. Add the diced chiles, stirring to combine. Add the wine and scrape all the cooked bits from the bottom of the pan and cook until almost all of the wine is absorbed. Stir in the pumpkin, and then add 6 cups of the broth. Add 2 teaspoons salt, one-half teaspoon pepper, the paprika, chile powder and one-fourth cup maple syrup. Adjust the heat so the soup comes to a low but steady simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is very soft and tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.
8. Remove the soup from the heat and puree in a blender, food processor, or with an immersion blender. Place the soup back in the pot over low heat and stir in the cream. If the soup is too thick, add up to a cup of the reserved broth. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more of less of the remaining maple syrup, if needed, (depending on the sweetness of the pumpkins) and a few dashes of Tabasco. Remove the soup from heat.
9. Pour the soup into each of the small pumpkins, and garnish each serving with a little of the sliced green onion. Serve immediately.
Each serving: 252 calories; 5 grams protein; 23 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 17 grams fat; 10 grams saturated fat; 54 mg. cholesterol; 689 mg. sodium.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times / September 9, 2013)