Monday, October 20, 2014     Volume: 15, Issue: 32
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Santa Maria Sun / Eats

Chef Ryan Gromfin concocts a soup recipe for grown-ups this Halloween

BY WENDY THIES SELL


GOURMET GOURDS
These smaller, sugar pie pumpkins are sweet, fine grained, and dense, and are grown for eating, not carving into jack-o’-lanterns.
PHOTO BY WENDY THIES SELL

For the Halloween edition of Eats, I invited chef Ryan Gromfin to share one of his scrumptious soup recipes using seasonal gourds.

Gromfin was formerly the chef at Central City Market. Now as a consulting chef, Gromfin assists restaurant owners around the world, inventing recipes, designing menus, and training staff.

He recently worked locally with Pasión, The Historic Santa Maria Inn, the Far Western Tavern, and the Radisson Hotel Santa Maria. Radisson Hotel’s Vintner’s Grill debuted a new menu in early November that Gromfin helped design. He also currently has a client in New Delhi, India.

Gromfin has a new project in the works in Santa Maria, a unique restaurant called Moxie. For details, read Eats in the coming months.

The multi-faceted chef was kind enough to contribute a pumpkin soup recipe perfect for Halloween and the rest of fall, when pumpkins are in season.

The chef takes over the rest of this week’s Eats column from here:

 All souped up!

“I thought why not make a slightly spicy (more adult) pumpkin soup for your Halloween party this year,” Gromfin wrote. “After all, the kids are probably not going to eat pumpkin soup, but if they do, this one will remind them of those sweet, spicy cinnamon Red Hot candies we all love.

“When it comes to cooking pumpkin I have two theories:

“No. 1. I don’t think people actually love pumpkin as much as they love the sweet spices associated with pumpkin. There is something warm and soothing about the smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice on a crisp fall morning!”

“No. 2. This is less about pumpkin and more about cinnamon, but when the average person thinks of cinnamon, they relate it to a spicy (hot) flavor, like we find in Red Hots, Hot Tamales, and Big Red gum.

“So a little trick that I use in almost all my cinnamon cooking (even the sweet recipes) is that I back up the addition of cinnamon powder with a pinch of cayenne pepper. It just heats things up a bit.

“Lastly, with regards to this pumpkin soup recipe, I would highly suggest that you use whole, fresh pumpkin, but not the kind you carve; those are terrible when cooked.”

“When buying a pumpkin for cooking, you want a pumpkin labeled sweet, sugar, Cinderella, or cheese pumpkin (don’t ask).

“You might not be able to find them at the grocery store, but I believe the Avila Valley Barn will have them.”

[Albertson’s and various local farmers markets have cooking pumpkins this season as well.]

“Otherwise, you can substitute a 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree. It’s a lot less work, but it’s just not the same!”

 

Red Hot Pumpkin Soup

By Chef Ryan Gromfin, 
Authentic Restaurant Concepts

Procedure:

Place the whole pumpkins on a sheet tray in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. When you can insert a knife easily through the pumpkins, they are done.

Allow them to rest for 30 minutes. Peel the skin off and separate the seeds from the pulp, reserve the pulp and the seeds separately. The rest goes in the trash.

In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Sauté for five minutes until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients (except salt) and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

CAREFULLY, blend the soup in your bar blender or with an immersion (stick blender). If you are using a blender, I have three tips on safety that you MUST follow when blending anything hot.

  • ONLY fill the blender ½ way
  • DO NOT place the lid on the blender (or use the lid but remove the center piece if it has a hole). Place a heavy kitchen towel over the top of the blender. Why, you ask? Well, hot liquid expands and releases steam. If your lid is on and you hit go, it will literally blow off and spray hot soup everywhere, including on you (OUCH!).
  • Start on the lowest speed and work your way to high, blending until smooth.

 
OK, now that the soup is blended, you have a choice to make: to strain or not to strain. That depends on how awesome you want your soup to be and how lazy you are feeling. Though I am a generally lazy person, when it comes to straining soup, I ALWAYS STRAIN. Pour the soup through the finest mesh strainer you have and your soup will be as smooth as silk and AWESOME!

Repeat this process for the whole batch, and then mix it all together in a container and season with salt to taste.  If you like your soup sweeter or spicier, now is the time to adjust with either maple syrup or brown sugar and cayenne. Then you can either cool the soup or heat it back up to a boil and serve.

I like to serve the soup with toasted pumpkin seeds and either sour cream or homemade cinnamon cayenne marshmallow (search Google for a homemade marshmallow recipe). Or you can use a couple of those store-bought marshmallows and place them on top of the soup in each bowl, then place the bowls under the broiler for a minute or two to toast the marshmallows. Mmmmmm, enjoy your Red Hot Pumpkin Soup!

Back to those pumpkin seeds: rinse them off, boil in salted water for 10 minutes, then toss them with oil and salt, and roast at 400 degrees until dry and toasted, roughly five to 15 minutes.

 

Sun wine and food columnist Wendy Thies Sell loves sipping warm soup during “soup weather.” Contact her at wthies@santamariasun.com.