Do you crave a good spine-tingling scare? Do haunted houses turn you on? Are the names Michael, Freddy and Jason top picks for your first-born son? If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, Halloween, with its ghosts, goblins and witches must be for you!
Now me, I am one of the biggest scaredy cats around. I despise the heart-pumping thrill of a roller coaster, can’t imagine walking into the basement without first turning on a light (or two) and have even been known to turn off old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for its fear factor. Yep, I’m just a big ol’ baby!
But, in the kitchen, now that’s a different matter. Once my apron is on I am a fearless force to be reckoned with. Souffle — no problem! Time-consuming Lobster Thermidor — just let me at those suckers! Baked Alaska — bring it on!
So why does a recipe for a simple holiday soup leave me shaking in my boots?
The ingredients are basic, the prep not too difficult, but the cooking utensil — a 7-pound pumpkin — makes me a little leery.
What if it leaks? The last thing I want to do is clean a half gallon of liquid out of the bottom of my new oven. If it suddenly collapses on the dining room table, do I quickly pass out straws? I weighed the consequences: another boring harvest table or this — a Martha Stewart-esque masterpiece? Desire won out over my fears. I gave it a go and was rewarded with one impressive, golden brown, soup-filled pumpkin.
If you think you’ve got nerves of steel, check it out. The thrill is worth it!
Jack-O-Lantern Soup Recipe
Choose a 6- to 7-pound, healthy, unblemished pumpkin, cut a neat cover out of the top, and scrape out seeds and strings. Rub both the inner flesh and outer shell with two tablespoons soft butter. Place on a lightly greased pan and set aside.
Spread 2 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs onto a roasting pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or so, tossing them once or twice until dry but not brown.
Saute two minced white onions in one stick of butter until translucent, about 15 minutes. Toss in the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring for an additional three minutes.
Pour the crumb mixture into the pumpkin, stir in 1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Swiss or gruyere cheese and fill with 2 to 2 1/2 quarts of hot homemade or store bought chicken stock, leaving a 2-inch head space at the top of the pumpkin. Season with 1/2 teaspoon sage, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, a bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.
Set the pumpkin in the lower level of a preheated 400 degree oven. Bake for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until the pumpkin flesh has just softened. Do not over-bake or it will collapse.
You may keep it warm for half an hour in a 175 degree oven until ready to serve, but be warned: too much heat will dangerously soften your pumpkin.
Just before serving, bring 1 cup heavy cream almost to a simmer and gently stir into the soup and follow with chopped fresh parsley. (The cream is totally optional, but oh-so good!)
At the table, ladle soup into bowls, scraping off some of the flesh from inside the pumpkin as you do so. Sooo amazing!
Are you chicken of any specific dishes? What scares you in the kitchen? —Karen