Thursday, October 2, 2014

Pumpkin, bacon, Parmesan soup



A few years ago, I made my first pumpkin and bacon soup. You don't have to do much to make it tasty. And you don't have to use pumpkin (one of the tougher squashes to find out of season). My favourite is hubbard, which is also great for dishes like warm squash salad where you don't want much moisture. 

Squash, onions, garlic, bacon, thyme. I ended up complicating it only a bit by enriching the broth with Parmesan, but it's really that simple.




Start off with about 200g (a half pound-ish) of bacon. I used some savoury cured, unsmoked pork belly, suitable for and substitutable with lardons. Cook them low and slow until they're very crispy and all the fat has rendered down, then let them drain over the pot to gather all the drippings.


Add a whole, chopped, spanish onion, three crushed and chopped cloves of garlic, and, if you've got it, two or three leaves of Caribbean thyme (or throw in a few bushy sprigs of fresh thyme), and cook it down until the onions are almost totally caramelized.



Add seeded, peeled, and cubed flesh from one small hubbard squash or pie pumpkin (or other similarly sized, dry variety of squash), about 1 Tbsp whole, black peppercorns, and 250 g of Parmesan rinds. (Mine were used to make Parmesan broth the day before - you can certainly use fewer rinds, especially if you haven't used them for something else.) Add enough water to cover all ingredients, bring to a boil and simmer for at least one hour. When the squash is soft, remove the rinds, discard them and puree the remaining soup. Season with salt to taste - there's probably enough pepper.

Crumble the crispy bacon and use it to garnish the soup. Serve with some nice bread - we paired it with toasted challah.

Perfect.

Pumpkin/bacon/Parmesan Soup
Serves about five servings
--
200g cubed bacon or lardons
1 spanish onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
3 leaves Caribbean thyme, chopped, or 3 bushy sprigs of thyme
1 baby hubbard squash or pie pumpkin, seeded, peeled, and cubed (about 6 cups)
250g spent Parmesan rind (or whatever you have on hand, especially if it's not spent)
1 tbsp whole, black peppercorns
Water
Salt to taste

In a dutch oven, cook bacon/lardons over low heat until all fat is rendered and cubes are crispy. Remove bacon and drain over pot or on paper towels. Crumble bacon into small cubes.
Add chopped onion, garlic, and thyme. Continue cooking over low heat until onions are almost completely caramelized - one third or less should retain their shape. 

Add pumpkin, Parmesan rinds, peppercorns and a pinch of salt. Fill with enough water to cover, bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for at least an hour, but if you have more time, go nuts.

Fish out Parmesan rinds (and thyme stems, if you used sprigs), and puree the soup using a submersion blender. 

Spoon into bowls and garnish with crispy bacon. This soup will get better the longer it sits, so feel free to make ahead.