30 October 2012

Pumpkin Soup...

I love the holiday season and for me it really does start with Halloween. I'm not fond of the overdone and expensive decorations--a pumpkin or two is sufficient--and I'm not much for the store-bought or rented costume. I like the old-fashioned Halloween of my childhood--a carnival at the country school we attended with simple games, a not-so-scary spook house, good food, and more candy than was good for us.
Our costumes were often made almost spur of the moment with whatever we had on hand. A farm family never has much money to waste on trifles. My mother always dressed as a gypsy and was a wonderful fortune teller. A burlap sack, braids made from laddered stockings, a headband with a feather, a corn cob doll for a prop--an Indian princess. Daddy's oversized padded cover-alls pulled up over the head with the neck stuffed with something, a pair of gloves and boots--a headless monster who needs a companion guide because the only view is through the button or zipper placket. A witch was usually easy. So was a pirate. A classic ghost was hard because even our old sheets were useful and we couldn't cut holes for eyes. But an old shower curtain or piece of fabric with a shower cap and a rubber mask... Grandma had found the mask in her yard the day after Halloween one year  and gave it to us... it appeared year after year. As far as I can remember that was the only "store bought" mask we had. We made masks out of cardboard and fabric scraps and bric-a-brac. We were limited only by our imaginations and what our crafty mother could help us make out of what we had. A big box could turn into almost anything--a TV set, a robot, a lamp table. A bunch of purple balloons to make a bunch of grapes. Raiding Mother's closet and dressing up in big hats and platform heels. Cross dressing was popular. The best Halloween trick was just the simple joke of a costume good enough to fool everyone into thinking that my brother was my sister.

One of the things I love about my church is that it offers one of those old-fashioned experiences to the children of our neighborhood. We started this year's festivities with a Pumpkin Festival last week. The kids got to decorate the pumpkins that will grace our fellowship hall and courtyard for the big party on Wednesday.
I made pumpkin soup and by popular demand the recipe follows:

K's Pumpkin Soup

In a large pot, whisk together and heat:
  • 1 quart of homemade chicken stock (recipe below)
  • 1 can Libby's pumpkin
  • Add 1 teaspoon each garlic powder, onion powder, cinnamon, black pepper, sweet paprika.
  • 1/2 teaspoon each chili powder and black pepper.
Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to low, simmer for 15 minutes.
  • 1 can (12 oz.) Carnation evaporated milk, simmer for a couple more minutes, stirring.
{At this point I ate a cup of soup for lunch--it was wonderful!--and put the rest in the fridge.}

A couple of hours before serving time, I put the soup in my slow cooker and added
  • 2 quarts Imagine organic butternut soup  
Heat on high until hot, then turn down to warm and serve.
Served in cups with a bowl of roasted  and salted Austinut's pumpkin kernels to add if the diner desires.
Note: I often use the butternut squash soup as a base or an extender for my autumn soups. When I was making this soup for Southwest Central Church's Pumpkin Festival, I intended to serve it in cups as a warm beverage. Had I been serving it at home in bowls to be eaten with spoons. I would have started by sauteing a medium onion, finely chopped,  and a couple of cloves of garlic, minced,  in canola oil rather than using the dried spices. I might have prepared some spaghetti squash to mix with it.  I would have diced some wonderful apples (golden ginger or honey crisp) to put a little crunch in the bowls and garnished with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt with a bit of parsley and maybe some bacon bits. 

This pumpkin soup gathered compliments because of the homemade stock which I had in my freezer. It was the liquid left after I had poached chicken for chicken salad. Here is how I did it:
Poached Chicken for chicken salad and chicken stock 

  • 10 sprigs parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 1 small carrot, halved
  • 1 stalk celery, halved
  • 3 pounds chicken breasts halves, on the bone and fat trimmed
  • 2 cans reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups (half a bottle) of white wine

Put the parsley, thyme, onion, carrot, celery, and chicken breasts in a pot. Cover with the broth, and bring just to a boil. Lower the heat to very low and cover. Poach the chicken for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch. Remove the pan from the heat, uncover, cool the chicken in the liquid for 30 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and reserve the liquid. Bone and skin the chicken and cut the meat into 1 inch cubes. Discard the bones and skin.  Yield: cubed chicken or 4 to 6 servings
Use the chicken to make chicken salad.

Strain the broth and store, covered, in the refrigerator for 3 days or freeze for later use. Remove any fat from the surface of the broth before using or freezing. 

And, just because it's in the same file, here is my chicken salad recipe:
Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups diced poached chicken, recipe follows
  • 1 stalk celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced or 1/4 cup sweet onion cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon or fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1 cup Hellman's mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons strained freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
In a mixing bowl, toss together the chicken, celery, scallions and herbs. Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Add to the chicken and mix gently until combined. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cook's Note: Serve on a bed of lettuce with sliced tomatoes, in half an avocado or in a chicken club sandwich made with artisan's bread, crispy smoked bacon, vine-ripened tomatoes and lettuce.

For me, chicken salad with vine-ripened tomatoes is summer. I made many batches this year. Now I've got that wonderful frozen stock to use in my autumn soups. Happy holidays!