We are just a day away from one of my favorite holidays so I decided to go back in the kitchen and prepare a recipe out of my cookbook but with some changes.
In my home, Halloween was always celebrated with chili dogs and of course candy apples and caramel apples. Just like other young children, I always dressed up in a costume and also waited anxiously for Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin TV show.
In Italy, Halloween was never really celebrated but the following days were observed by Catholics for All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. Today the holiday has changed and it is celebrated just like any holiday in America with feasts, except children and adults are in costume.
I’ll never forget the first time I served this recipe. I was returning to the James Beard House in New York City in 1999. Like previous visits, I wanted to serve something to the guests as they walked through the kitchen. I hadn’t really planned on anything special and while shopping at the market in New York City, I discovered some beautiful pumpkins and squash and wanted to incorporate these ingredients into my menu the following evening.
Sure, I could have just cleaned and sautéed the zucca in olive oil with fresh herbs or perhaps even make my famous Ravioli di Zucca. But I wanted something creative, something guests would talk about long after they left.
I was reminded of the first time I visited the James Beard House with my father back in 1995 and we served Lobster Cappuccino. Journalist and food critics talked about this dish for years, and it became one of my signature items on our menu back in Kansas City.
I returned back to James Beard’s kitchen and decided I would do a basic cream soup recipe with some onion and vegetable broth.
I also decide to do something completely different and sautée some pancetta — Italian bacon. I just knew it would give more flavor. Seriously, everything is better with bacon, correct?
I blended the soup after cooking for a while and tasted. I thought it needed a touch of brown sugar just for sweetness but nothing like pumpkin pie.
I also decided to lace the soup at the last minute with some apple cider and oh what a difference. Ah … perfection
I hope you prepare this soup for your Halloween dinner or sometime during the coming holidays. It really is great tasting and unique. I suggest serving the soup warm or chilled in espresso cups as an aperitif, also known as Pumpkin Soup En Cappuccino.
Pumpkin & Apple Cider Soup
Makes 6 servings
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cups pumpkin purée
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup Louisburg Apple Cider
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
8 ounces crispy pancetta
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Pumpkin pie spice to taste
Frothed milk, sour cream, or heavy cream, for serving
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sautée for 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin and brown sugar and stir continuously for 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and process until smooth then return the mixture to the saucepan. Stir in the stock and bring to a boil over medium heat. Add the cider. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cream and chives. The soup can be stored, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. To serve, season the warm or chilled soup with salt and pepper and top with frothed milk, sour cream, or heavy cream. Sprinkle with crumbled pancetta and pumpkin pie spice.
Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 59-year-old restaurant with his brother. Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.