Thursday, November 21, 2013

Kabocha Squash and Celeriac Soup with Duckfat-Roasted Pepitas

Kabocha Squash and Celeriac soup

I'm about to embark on the utter madness that occurs in my kitchen between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In a whirlwind I go into the wee hours of the morning for a month and half making dishes for family gatherings, a feast for Friendsgiving, and candies and cookies like a good little Christmas elf. It's over in a flash and an explosion of wrapping paper, and all I'm left with is a giant pile of dishes!

Without fail, after a month of nonstop crazy, I get sick right before Christmas and go into hibernation until New Year's. You'd think I'd learn to slow down a bit, but I never do. MUST. BAKE. ALL. THE. THINGS!!!

Kabocha Squash and Celeriac soup

Until that happens though, I will be busy playing and experimenting in the kitchen. And even with all the Christmas lights going up around me, my focus is still on Thanksgiving. Give the day its due, people! What's the rush with Christmas decor up in the stores in August and Halloween stuff gone off the shelves before we even get there?! Thanksgiving is a glorious day filled with gluttony and naps and football! What could be better??

And here's another thing, I feel like soup doesn't get its rightful place on the Thanksgiving menu. I can't think of anything more comforting and homey than a warm bowl of soup shared with family and friends. Not a large bowl, or a rich bowl, (you do need to fit in all those mashed potatoes and second servings of stuffing, after all) but a small, well-seasoned bowl of soup made from simple, seasonal ingredients. Now that's the way to start Thanksgiving in my opinion.

This kabocha squash and celeriac soup hits all the marks. It's slightly sweet and super creamy, but still light thanks to the low starch content of the celeriac. Top that with some savory pepitas roasted in duck fat (or bacon fat!) and some crisp apples, and it's perfection.

Kabocha Squash and Celeriac soup

Kabocha Squash and Celeriac Soup
with Duckfat Roasted Pepitas
(makes 8-10 cups)

For the soup:
1 medium kabocha squash, about 2-3lbs, peeled, seeded, and flesh cut into 1 inch pieces
1 large bulb celeriac, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup apple cider
2 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup cream (optional)
salt & pepper, to taste
1 tart apple, peeled, cored and finely diced (for garnish)

For the pepitas:
2 tsp duck fat, melted
1/2 cup pepitas 
1/2 tsp truffle salt, or kosher salt

1. For the soup: Preheat oven to 425F. Toss the squash and celeriac with olive oil and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet. Season well with salt and pepper and bake in the preheated oven, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly brown and soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

2. While the squash and celeriac are roasting, melt the butter in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook just until fragrant, about a minute. Add the roasted vegetables, garam masala and cinnamon, stir and cook for a minute or two. Add the chicken stock, apple cider and thyme to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. 

3. In batches, puree the soup in a blender until very smooth and creamy. Add additional stock to thin if needed. Pour the pureed soup back into a pot and stir in the cream if using. Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed. Serve soup topped with diced apples and warm pepitas. (If you're making the soup in advance, don't add the cream until you're ready to serve.)

4. For the pepitas: Preheat oven to 350F. Toss the pepitas with the duck fat and 1/2 of the salt. Spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 of the salt. 

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