I learned this recipe from an art professor at Alfred University, in upstate New York. He threw me the most delicious dinner party I’ve ever attended. This pumpkin soup qualifies as both sculpture and performance art.
Professor's recipe used real cheese and cream. At the time of the dinner party, I was 32 and could indulge in such things without any ill effect. Now, ten years later, I would keel over.
I tried making my pumpkin soup “vegan-style”, and to my delight, it was just as fantastic, and I could eat twice as much without getting a tummy-ache. None of my tasters could tell that I made it without dairy products— they all thought I was creaming them to death.
Select a pumpkin that looks like it could handle 2-3 quarts of soup inside. At the same time, it has to be "not too big," so you can easily get it into your oven, on a shallow, solid, baking pan or sheet. Check out my photo for size comparison.
Cut the pumpkin open at the top, and when you do, cut at an angle, so that your knife drives in towards the center. What you want is a pumpkin “lid” that is wider at its skin-top, and narrower at its meat-bottom. Leave the stem! That's your handle.
The lid/hole needs to be big enough that you can easily ladle/scoop out the soup and pumpkin meat with a serving spoon, when it's all done. For your typical big jack o'lantern, I'd say about 5-6 inches....
If you blow it, don't worry, it’s not imperative. The angled lid is the ideal shape so that it doesn’t “drop in” during the cooking, when the pumpkin expands and softens.
Scoop out the seeds and the funky membrane stuff.
With a sharp spoon or scraper, scrape the interior of the pumpkin until it is ½" thick. Save the pumpkin meat.
Place your pumpkin in a shallow baking dish or baking sheet with a lip. Do this now, because you won't be able to lift it later, otherwise!
In a dutch oven or big saucepan, sauté three sweet onions and a bulb of garlic in butter or olive oil.
Add a quart of broth, either chicken, turkey, or vegetable. (Feel free to just open up four cans of broth from the supermarket). Heat it up in a big saucepan and add the pumpkin meat you scraped out.
To the simmering broth, add some oregano, a couple of carrots, bay leaf, pepper. (Don’t add salt if you’re using the canned broth... it’s already plenty salty).
Cook your broth until carrot and pumpkin are soft.
Remove the carrots and the bay leaf.
Blend with a potato masher, or beater. Don't worry about making it perfectly smooth, chunky is ok.
Add 3 cups of plain soy milk, (or milk, or half & half), a tablespoon of nutmeg, a couple shakes of cloves, and some salt and pepper to taste.
Heat until it's ready to just-boil. Watch it, so you don't curdle your milk. Take the saucepan off the stove and set it up next to your prepped pumpkin waiting in its baking tray.
Bread and Cheese
Now for the bread part. Your goal is to ladle your “soup” into the pumpkin between layers of bread and cheese.
You have a choice here: You can buy a package of the gourmet croutons they sell at your yuppie market.
Or use a dry loaf of Challah or Sourdough bread and break it into chunks. Dry it out so it’s crunchy. You want stale bread, fresh bread won’t work.
Do not use ANY other kind of breads than what I mentioned— they won’t taste right. If you go the crouton method, make sure they the big garlicky ones, not the little buggers people buy in a bag to make Thanksgiving stuffing.
For the cheese, get a pound of Swiss, Jarlsburg or Gruyere. Grate up a package, or if it come in slices, that’s perfect.
You can also use Swiss-style Tofu-rella... I promise you this will taste GRAND, and you will fool EVERYONE.
Ladle the broth into the pumpkin, alternating between chunks of bread/croutons, and handfuls/slices of cheese. This is the fun part.
Getting It In and Out of the Oven
By now, your pumpkin is full and heavy. Put the pumpkin lid on, gently. It doesn't have to fit tight.
Lube the outside surface of the pumpkin with olive oil. This will make it brown— it will look spectacular.
Cook at 425 degrees until browning... try a half hour on your timer for starters. It all depends on the size of your pumpkin.
Be VERY careful taking the pumpkin out, it will be very heavy. Have it in a SOLID shallow baking pan so if something breaks or spills, you’re not wrecked or burned.
Now serve to your flabbergasted guests. This soup is UNREAL.... people will be crying and gesticulating. You can handle it. Save a nice big hot bowl for yourself.