Monday, January 18, 2010

First, Get a Sharp Knife

With its gnarled, thick rind, this heirloom pumpkin looks like anything but something to eat. It's not often you find yourself in the kitchen, staring at an ingredient, trying to figure out an attack plan. Usually this moment only comes confronting your food when it is still running, or pinching.

Take a deep breath. Get a sharp knife.

A big, heavy, ugly beast. Thump. Right there in front of you.

Take a moment to size it up. Look at the angles. Then take your first cut down the deepest seam. Take your next cut down the opposite side. Turn the pumpkin over and make the cuts meet at the bottom. Grab the thing and pull it apart.

You just got it down by half and all you had to do was start. From here, the goal is to slice away the rind, a bit at a time, where you can. When you get a piece cleared, cut it off into cubes.

Slowly, piece by piece, you get there. If you hurry, you'll get hurt. It's not a race. More of a test of patience.

And not unlike any other problem in life, really. If you work at it, take it piece by piece, sooner or later, you'll get it down to size.

Finally, save the seeds. Compost the rest. Use everything wisely.

I think about these things in the kitchen. Even when I am just cutting a pumpkin.

Pumpkin and Crab Soup
2 tbs. olive oil
1 onion chopped
2 leeks, white and an inch of light green, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 tbs. dried thyme, or 4 tbs. fresh thyme
2 lbs. cubed pumpkin
1 lb. peeled, cubed sweet potato
2 cups seafood stock
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup half and half
1 tbs. butter
1 lb. crab claw meat
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the celery, leek, onion and sweat for 10 minutes over low heat. Add the thyme, pumpkin and sweet potato and the 6 cups of stock. Bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cover. Simmer for about 30 minutes until the potato and pumpkin are soft.

Puree with a stick blender. Swirl in the butter and half and half to add richness. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the crab meat and mix until heated through.

Serve with grated Gruyere or Parmesan on top.

Have to admit, this is not the best recipe for Pumpkin and Crab Soup. John Besh has a better one, I think, in his My New Orleans one. It uses twice the crab meat amount (and the big lump kind that costs twice as much) and double the amount of real cream plus garlic and cayenne to keep it Cajun. Very tasty. Still, this lighter approach is pretty good, especially when you are on the New Year "eat better" track. For now.


Unknown said...

You are my pumpkin sister. I've got a great recipe for pumpkin cheddar grits in the slow cooker if you want it. Not healthy but gooooooood.

I've got about eight cups of puree in the freezer just waiting to be used...

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This is cool!