Pumpkin soup makes a lovely starter for the holiday meal. Search out a real cooking pumpkin, not one grown for jack-o’-lantern looks. Be cautious when cutting, though, since the outer skin of these pumpkins in usually thicker than that of a Halloween pumpkin.
3- to 3½-pound pumpkin, preferably a deeply lobed pumpkin such as a Cinderella or rouge du temps
6 ounces bacon, diced
4 ounces celery root (1 small root), peeled, diced
3 large leeks, white parts only, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 medium shallots, minced
5 cups low-sodium chicken stock
Coarse salt, such as kosher salt
1 bouquet garni (several sprigs fresh parsley, thyme, sage, rosemary, and bay leaf, wrapped in cheesecloth and tied with thread)
1 to 2 teaspoons crushed dried red chile of medium heat
Fresh chives, minced (optional)
- Cut top off pumpkin jack-o’-lantern style. Scoop out innards, separating flesh from seeds and related goo (discard the latter, or save seeds if you wish to toast them). Reserve pumpkin shell and lid, if you wish, as your serving tureen. Cut flesh into 1-inch chunks.
- In large saucepan or small stockpot, fry bacon over medium heat until brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove bacon with slotted spoon, drain, and reserve. Into bacon drippings, stir celery root, leeks, garlic, and shallots, and sauté until lightly browned and somewhat soft, about 7 minutes. Add pumpkin flesh, stock, salt, and bouquet garni. Raise heat to high and bring to boil, then reduce heat to maintain low simmer, with occasional breaking bubbles. Cook about 45 minutes, until pumpkin is very soft. Remove and discard bouquet garni.
- Purée soup, either with immersion blender in pan or in batches in regular blender. (Don’t fill a regular blender any more than half full of hot liquid or it may blow its top.) Soup can be made ahead up to this point. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate soup and bacon overnight.
- Before proceeding, let bacon sit at least 20 minutes at room temperature, and reheat soup, adding a little water if too thick to spoon easily. Adjust seasoning.
- Ladle soup into pumpkin tureen, if using. Serve in bowls piping hot and garnished with sprinkles of chile, bacon, and optional chives.