Fall — and of course, Halloween — bring us many pumpkins, many of which will end up on the front stoop with a jack-o-lantern grin. The best varieties of pumpkins for carving are the Ghost Rider, Magic Lantern, Merlin and Spirit — the names alone evoke pumpkin folklore, in which witches turned people into pumpkins. If you plan on entering a competition, Big Max and Big Moon grow the biggest, but if you are in the mood to make a pumpkin pie, Small Sugar or Amish Pie are best.
For pumpkins not meant to ward off ghosts and goblins, turn to the soup pot. Here’s a dish that will keep you warm this fall.
Pumpkin Soup with Cherry Brandy
Recipe by Carrie Hirsch
INGREDIENTS (Serves 8-10)
1 medium pumpkin (4-5 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅓-½ cup cherry-flavored brandy (optional)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 large firm apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Carefully cut off pumpkin stem, then cut pumpkin in half and scoop out seeds and fibers. Arrange halves, cut side down, on a pan lined with parchment paper. Roast in oven for 1 hour, checking occasionally. Before handling, allow pumpkin halves to cool for 15 minutes, then use a large spoon to remove the skin. In a large heavy pot, heat butter and olive oil and sauté onion over medium heat until translucent, stirring frequently. Stir in chicken broth, brown sugar, salt and black pepper. Add pumpkin to mixture and process until smooth using an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor in batches. Add brandy and heavy cream and stir. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat butter in a small skillet and sauté the apples slices over low heat until caramelized, stirring often, adding more butter if needed. Garnish each portion with apple slices and pecans.