October 6, 2010
Ras el hanout, local pecorino, crispy shallot
Some say the kabocha was born from the womb of Princess Tochi in the Omi province of Japan. What do you think Prince Otomo was thinking when out popped this pumkin? I’m sure none of the royal court were impressed except her jealous lover and sower of seed, Prince Takechi
A more digestible version of the story has a Spanish manwhore pillaging South East Asia and finding this sweet, smooth fleshed pumpkin in Cambodia. He allegedly gave a sack full of these vegetables to his Portuguese girlfriend Betriz, who slipped the seeds into her husband’s crop rotation.
Betriz’s farm was pillaged by a group of Portuguese pirates who took their booty on World Tour 1549. The sea dogs made friends with Japanese groupies dressed in silk and traded the pumpkins for a few copper coins. Following, the Japanese mocked the mentally challenged Portuguese and cultivated their newly prized vegetable. They called it kabocha from the misinterpreted Portuguese word for Cambodia.
You believe what you wish.
The kabocha I used for this rich, velvety soup was the product of a Jewish farmer and his Muslim wife. Together, they grow a bounty of organic, peacekeeping vegetables with the help of several small Korean children. You can find them on the East side of Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays.
Ras El Hanout
Grind this mixture from your spice cabinet or head to your local spice shop for a premix.
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 balinese long peppers
1/2 tsp pink peppercorns
1/2 tsp allspice berries
1/2 tsp grains of paradise
Thumbnail sized piece of dried cayenne, no seeds
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
Roast the Kabocha
2lb Kabocha Pumpkin
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Cut the kabocha in half from stem to bottom. Remove the seeds and fibers and set aside. Place the kabocha flesh side down on a sheet pan. Roast in the oven until soft and the skin side of pumpkin yields to your forefinger, about 45 minutes to an hour. Reserve any juices and set aside to cool
Kabocha seeds and fibers
1 bulb of rocambole garlic (bulb, not clove), crushed
2 medium onions, skins removed
2 large carrots, peeled
2 stalks of celery
1 tart apple, seeds removed
12 pink peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
6 sprigs of thyme
2 Tbs Sicilian olive oil
2 Tbs salt
1 gallon spring water
1 cup of white wine
In an 8 qt. stock pot, saute the onions in olive oil until translucent, about 5 mins. Add the wine and simmer 5 mins more. Add the water and remaining ingredients and bring to a slow boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for an hour. Cool and strain the stock into a smaller pot.
Make the Soup
Roasted kabocha flesh
3 large shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, heart removed, coarsely chopped
4 cups stock
1 cup farm fresh heavy cream
3 sprigs thyme
1 1/2 tsp ras el hanout
2 tablespoons fresh, local butter
Salt, to taste
Freshly grated local pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano
Scoop the flesh from the kabocha. Sautee shallots in butter for 3 minutes until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for a few minutes more.. Add the cooked pumpkin, reserved juices, cook for 5 minutes more. Add the stock, 1 teaspoon of the ras el hanout and thyme. Simmer for 30 minutes, covered. Allow the soup to cool for 15 minutes.
When the soup is cool, remove the herb stems and pass through your food mill or puree in your blender. Put the soup in a clean pan, add the cream and heat slowly over a low flame. The soup should be a thick, rich and velvety, but not too thick to sip from a sherry glass. Add a little more stock if necessary. Adjust the salt and ras el hanout.
Cover and let sit on the warm stove for at least one hour.
Crisp the Shallots
2 large shallots
1/2 cup peanut or canola oil
In a small frying pan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add 1 layer of shallots to the pan and cook over moderately high heat until brown and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Repeat with the remaining sliced shallots.
Serve the soup very warm, but not hot, in a Champagne coupe garnished with crispy shallots.