Tue Oct 18, 2011
How can you not have pumpkins on the mind this time of year? While most will pass by the local grocery or pumpkin patch and think of little more than jack-o-lanterns, I see another item well suited for grilling. Trying to drop a few pounds the hefty last few Meatwaves have added, I've been on a little soup bender, which just so happens to meld perfectly with my desire to grill pumpkins, combining to create this curried pumpkin soup.
When considering cooking a pumpkin, first I had to pick the right culprit. While large pumpkins abound this time of year, those are best suited for carving, with the smaller, sugar pumpkins making the best choice for baking, having a sweeter flavor and more flesh for its size.
Once hollowed out—seeds saved for roasting later, of course—I thought the best method to cook a pumpkin thoroughly on the grill was roasting over a two-zone indirect fire. It took almost an hour for the pumpkin to fully soften, which gave it plenty of time to absorb a hint of smoke, along with getting some nice browning around the edges.
Once the pumpkins cooled a bit off the heat, the flesh was easy to scoop away from the skin using a spoon, leaving me with four cups of pure pumpkin goodness.
Pumpkin was only half the equation here, as I wanted to pair the slightly sweet, earthy gourd with a complex, semi-spicy curry. So to get that part into the mix, I first softened a chopped onion in a large dutch oven, then added in ginger, curry powder, mustard seeds, cumin, and cayenne, whose intoxicating aroma filled the kitchen as they were introduced to the heat.
Once the spices became fragrant, the pumpkin was added in, along with chicken stock, and the whole thing simmered for 15 minutes to blend all the flavors together.
What I was left with was a rather unappetizing looking slosh of pumpkin bits in a slightly thick stock. To bring this into a soup I'd want to eat, I pureed it in the blender until smooth, then poured it back into the dutch oven and added some heavy cream, which not only gave the soup a great richness, but did a lot to bring the color to a beautiful creamy orange.
I couldn't have asked for better results this soup—it had an excellent balance of flavors. A little sweetness to pumpkin was cut with the curry, which was discernible, but in no way overpowering. The cayenne and black pepper added some kick, leaving the slightest burn on the tongue after the rest of the flavors made their way through. This only goes to show that pumpkins can be way more than vessels for carving, but also great objects of culinary inspiration even suited for the grill.
Curried Pumpkin Soup
2 medium sugar pumpkins, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped medium
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 cups low sodium chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream, for serving
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
1. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Brush exposed flesh of pumpkin with melted butter, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Place pumpkin halves over cool side of grill, cover, and cook at medium heat until paring knife can be inserted in middle of pumpkin with no resistance, about 45-60 minutes. Remove pumpkin from grill and let sit until cool enough to handle. Scoop out flesh of pumpkin halves into bowl and discard skin, you should have about 4 cups of pumpkin.
2. Heat olive oil in large dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add ginger, curry powder, mustard seeds, cumin, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken stock and pumpkin and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Working in batches, puree the soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to dutch oven over medium heat and stir in heavy cream. Cook until warmed through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, top with the cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.