Pumpkin Apple Soup With Cinnamon Croutons – Waldy Malouf – This recipe was originally published on Star Chefs. There is another version on Food and Wine, but this is the better version.
Yield: 10-12 servings
When you eat a spoonful of this soup, it will remind you of all the flavors of fall. Pumpkins and apples are harvested at the same time and the two flavors complement each other. People expect the soup to be sweet, but it’s savory, with a tinge of tart apple. The house smells wonderful when you make a big pot of it on a crisp autumn day. It serves as an excellent main course, and it freezes beautifully.
Oddly enough, canned pumpkin is almost always better than fresh – and certainly a lot easier. The smoky bacon brings the pumpkin and apple flavors together, but the soup is also very good – if less complex – if you leave out the meat. (My comment, do not leave out the bacon!)
2 slices bacon, diced
2 Tablespoons butter
4 large tart apples such as Baldwin or Cortland, peeled, cored, and chopped (I use Granny Smith)
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, peeled and chopped
1 leek, white part only, carefully cleaned and chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A few gratings nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 cup good-quality dry white wine
1/2 cup apple cider
2 Tablespoons good-quality brandy, apple brandy, or Calvados
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I use chicken stock)
1 smoked ham hock
2 cups canned pumpkin purée
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
(ingredients tied together in a double layer of cheesecloth)
1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 small bunch parsley
Butter croutons, recipe follows
In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, render the bacon over medium heat, add the butter, the apples, and the chopped vegetables and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are lightly cooked, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice and stir for a minute or 2, allowing the spices to “bloom.” Add the wine, cider, and brandy and reduce until almost dry. Pour in the stock, add the herb sachet and ham hock, and stir in the pumpkin purée. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer gently, with lid ajar, for about 1 hour, until all the vegetables are soft. Remove the sachet and discard it. Remove the ham hock, take the meat off the bone, and reserve it. Discard the bone. Put the soup through a food mill or sieve into a large bowl. (I prefer to put the soup in a food processor or blender and then sieve it.) Season the soup with salt and freshly ground pepper and adjust the consistency if necessary with additional stock; the soup should be like a thin porridge. Chop the reserved ham and add it to the soup. Let the soup cool, cover, and refrigerate it, at least overnight.
Prepare the garnish. Prepare Butter Croutons (see below), tossing with the cinnamon and sugar before you toast the croutons. Reheat the soup, seasoning it with salt and pepper; add a little apple brandy if you wish. Garnish each bowl of soup with cinnamon croutons and chopped parsley.
Yield: 2 to 3 cups croutons
6 slices good-quality unsweetened white bread, crusts removed
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon sugar
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Stack the slices of bread and cut them into 1/2-inch cubes. Toss with the cinnamon and sugar before you toast the croutons. Melt the butter in a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and toss the bread to coat it all with butter. Toast the croutons in the oven, shaking the pan once or twice so they will brown evenly. The croutons will be crisp in about 20 minutes.
The soup can be frozen. Do not make the croutons until ready to serve. Also I usually make an extra ham hock, if I have frozen the soup, and add the diced the ham hock just before serving.