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Pumpkin Bisque with Wild Mushrooms and Cranberry Compote
Any dish featuring both pumpkin and cranberries, not to mention wild mushrooms, is perfect for the Thanksgiving table, or any fall feast. This recipe calls for cheese pumpkin because its low water content helps a concentrated flavor. Though named a bisque, this soup doesn't feature any cream; it gets its smooth richness from the mascarpone cheese.
I must put in a word for my favorite mushrooms, porcini, which have a distinctly earthy flavor and voluptuous texture. Other mushrooms such as chanterelles would also be good here, but if you can obtain fresh porcini, make a point using them.
4 lbs cheese pumpkin, seeded, peeled, and quartered
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Put the pumpkin quarters in a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of the softened butter, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat the pumpkin. Spread the quarters out on a rimmed cookie sheet. Roast until tender to a fork-tip, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the oven and, when cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh. You should have approximately 3 cups of roasted pumpkin.
3. Put 3 tablespoons butter into a large, heavy-bottomed pot and warm it over low heat. Add the onion, celery, and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened but not browned, approximately 20 minutes. Pour in the stock and add the roasted pumpkin. Bring to boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Whisk in the mascarpone and the pumpkin puree.
4. Put 2 tablespoons butter into a medium, heavy-bottomed sauté pan and warm it over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and, if using porcini, mushrooms stems and sauté for 1 minute, then add the caps and sauté for another 2 minutes or, if using chanterelles, add the pieces along with the shallots and sauté for approximately 3 minutes. If the mushrooms look dry, add a tablespoon or two of water or stock. Season with salt and 3 grinds of pepper, or to taste. Set the mushrooms aside, covered, to keep them warm.
5. Do the following in batches: Put the soup in a blender and puree until velvety smooth. Season to taste with salt. Continue to blend until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Add the nutmeg, orange zest, and 3 grinds of white pepper to the soup.
6. Divide the soup among 6 wide, shallow bowls. Garnish each serving with 1 heaping tablespoon cranberry compote, if desired. Divide the mushrooms equally among the bowls scattering them over the surface of the soup, and serve.
EMBELLISHMENT: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over a medium-high heat and let cook until the butter turns brown. Add it to the soup while blending one batch.
Makes 1 cup
This compote is also a delicious accompaniment to game and poultry
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed sauté pan set over low heat. Stir the cranberries, sugar, orange zest, Grand Marnier, cinnamon, and ginger.
2. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to burst, approximately 6 minutes. The mixture will be bubbling and foamy. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. The compote can be cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 1 week.