It turns out that I don't have to worry about the turkey this year. Our friends Kathy and Russ invited us for Thanksgiving. I offered to make a couple side dishes: a soup and a pie. Later, it dawned on me that my entire Thanksgiving assignment rested on two side dishes that start and finish the festive meal. Maybe I should relax about it but when my pie crust wasn't coming together like it should, I was on skype asking my pastry chef sister Fuyuko in Tokyo for advise. She had a quick answer. Dump the dough, and start all over again......oh, well, I still have another day to improve on my crust making skills. As for the pumpkin soup, I am doing much better. I went to my cookbooks shelf and picked out Thomas Keller'sBuchon cookbook and decided to make his Butternut Squash Soup. I have made it twice already. It came out very tasty both times but I omitted the honey from his recipe the second time because the butternut was naturally sweet. Now I am on a roll with squash. This morning for breakfast, I made a different soup with Kabocha squash, using dried bonito flakes and kombu based dashi stock. Unlike Keller's recipe, which easily takes about five pounds of vegetables, including leeks, carrots, fennel to make the perfumy vegetable stock, and more vegetables to finish the soup, the dashi took less time and just a couple of ingredients to put it together, and its savoriness worked very well with the kabocha.
Kabocha squash - a heavy six pounder
This kabocha squash however, was not as sweet as the butternut squash I used in Keller's recipe. I added some mirin and honey to give the squash some depth of flavor. The honey gave it a slight caramel taste, which I liked. Here is how to make my kabocha squash soup in case you are looking for a tasty fat free soup to serve on Thanksgiving or to enjoy for breakfast as I did. There is some Thomas Keller influences in the garnish.
Tomorrow, I have to roast a pumpkin to finish Keller's soup. I am praying that my apple pie turns out well. The raisins for the pie are soaking in the rum but they are slowly disappearing. They are irresistible. Can't wait for tomorrow to come.
2 lbs kabocha squash (about 1 small kabocha squash), peeled and cut into 3 inch pieces.
Garnish: 2 shiso leaves, chopped or 2 tbls chives, chopped
Additional garnish: Creme fraiche and Olive oil (optional)
Peeling the pumpkin can be tedious but worth the trouble.
For this soup, peel all the skin.
Cook the cut kabocha squash pieces in the dashi for 12-15 minutes, or until the kabocha pierces easily with a fork. Add the soysauce, mirin, a pinch of salt and pepper, and mix them into the soup. Put the kabocha and the seasoned dashi in a food processor or blender to make a puree. Now taste the soup. If it needs to be sweeter, add a teaspoon of honey or two. This will depend on the pumpkin's natural sweetness and your palate. Adding another pinch of salt or two will also intensify the flavor. You can put the soup through a fine strainer for a creamier finish. If the soup is too thick, add more dashi.
To serve, ganish the heated soup with chopped shiso or chives.
Optional serving method: For a richer soup, you can drop a teaspoon of creme fraiche with a pinch of chopped shiso or chives on top, and drizzle some extra-virgen olive oil. Thomas Keller does this with his butternut squash soup, and it works with this kabocha soup too.