Once again it’s the Season of the Pumpkin: Hallowe’en and Thanksgiving.
In America, “pumpkin...” is almost always followed by “...pie”. But in France it’s not so much a sweet as a savory, used mainly for soups, and more recently in purée form as a side dish for roasted meats (as are carrots, turnips and celeriac). The ones you want to use for baking or cooking are smaller and sweeter than jack-o’lantern pumpkins, and are called pie pumpkins, or sugar pumpkins, or sugar pie pumpkins.
So here’s his seasonal soup for that pumpkin you didn’t use for a jack-o’lantern. It’s more a meal than a soup, thanks to its bread and melted cheese, the Auvergne version of the internationally-known French onion soup. Perfect for chilly evenings, it’s guaranteed to be filling. And served in its shell, it’s sure to be a conversation stopper.
- 1 pie pumpkin, about the size of a basketball
- 4-6 slices of Cantal cheese
- 4-6 slices of Poilane bread
- 2/3 to 1 qt of milk, cream or half-and-half
- freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 375°F.
- Cut off the top of the pumpkin, saving the cap to use as a lid. Scrape out the seeds and coarse fibers.
- Place the pumpkin in a rimmed baking dish and fill the inside with alternating layers of cheese and bread. Pour the milk/cream over the bread and cheese, filling the pumpkin to the top. Add freshly ground pepper to taste. (Cantal cheese is naturally very salty.) Replace the cap on the pumpkin.
- Bake for 60 minutes.
- Serve by cutting the “bread/cheese melt” into sections and pouring the liquid over it.
Accompany with a hearty red, such as a cahors.
This is an easy recipe to make in France. In the United States, you can replace the Cantal cheese with a very mild Cheddar. The Poilane bread can be replaced with any sturdy whole-wheat bread, provided it’s dry enough; or else you can leave the bread out overnight so it dries a bit. And yes, this is a perfect recycling dish for bread that’s going stale (but not moldy!).
|The town of Salers, in Auvergne - basalt walls and lauze roofs|