Wednesday, December 6, 2006

"Jane Brody's Good Food Gourmet" by Jane Brody - Pumpkin Soup Parmesan

Date I made this recipe: November 30, 2006

Jane Brody’s Good Food Gourmet by Jane Brody
Published by: W. W. Norton
© 1990

Recipe: Pumpkin Soup Parmesan – p. 95

After my success with the Sarma Hot Dish, I thought I’d keep rolling right along and so selected Pumpkin Soup Parmesan for my next cooking endeavor. Well, maybe it was me, or maybe it was me and the ingredients, or me and my palate, but Jane, Jane, Jane, I can’t help but feel that I failed you. The soup just didn’t generate the taste sensation I was anticipating and I was hugely disappointed. Actually, beyond disappointed - I was crushed.

So let’s review where I might have gone astray.

First, this recipe calls for 2 pounds of pumpkin that are then simmered in chicken broth. Well, okay, confession number one: I didn’t use actual pumpkin slices because, unbeknownst to me, pumpkin is not available after Halloween. Or they weren’t available to my local grocery store chain. At any rate, I thought that pumpkin puree would do so I bought a can similar in weight to what I should have cooked on the stove top. This might have been my first mistake. I should note that I was in a burning hurry the day I shopped and so while there might have been actual pumpkins available at other stores, I’ll never know because I had to get home.

Confession number two: the recipe called for 3 tablespoons of Marsala, but again, given my burning hurry, I didn’t go buy Marsala and really, aside from this dish and perhaps Veal Marsala, exactly when does one use a bottle of this liquor, hmm? So, I was being fast and cheap but I thought that I could substitute a little Sherry for the Marsala and who would be the wiser? Well, now that I’m confessing this to you, I guess you’ll be a little wiser, but I digress.

So, I cut my onion, peeled and cut my potatoes add the broth, the water, the rosemary (Dried, not fresh because seriously, can we talk about how many times we’ve purchased a whole packet of herbs just to use one, lousy sprig. I was having none of this.), the pumpkin puree and followed the directions to bring to a boil and then simmer until the pumpkin (operative word) is tender. I went with “when the potatoes are tender.” But folks, when I tasted the soup at this point, I felt even then that it was lacking in…well, flavor. But surely this would change when I added the remaining ingredients.

Or not. I added the Parmesan. I added the white pepper, the nutmeg and the sherry that was substituting for the Marsala and…no. Just no.

So I tried more variations. Perhaps some black pepper, perhaps some more sherry (with a little for me on the side) and perhaps some more nutmeg but no, no, no! Nothing worked.

So I decided that perhaps an overnight stay in my refrigerator would do the trick but alas, no.

It’s not often that I come unglued by a recipe but this is Jane Brody we’re talking about. Jane Brody, as in “Jane Brody’s Nutrition Book,” Jane Brody. Could it be that this recipe was meant to be healthy but not necessarily tasty? Was I unfairly likening this soup to Butternut Squash soup which is oh-so-sweet and flavorful?

People, I have no idea but you very well may have. (I know my hairstylist did) Or, for that matter, Jane Brody herself may have just the answser. So Jane, please forgive me for what I did to your soup but…HELP! Where did I go wrong? What shall I do? It was the pumpkin puree, wasn’t it? I knew it…..

I also knew that as much as I would love to, I could not give Jane or another recipe from her book another chance or I would break my own rules of only cooking one recipe from one book at a time (so as to get through my 800 plus cookbook collection before I die). That doesn’t mean I won’t welcome cards or letters telling me the errors of my way or even similar experiences with this very same soup and what you did to make it Super (no pun intended) Duper Good!

Pumpkin Soup Parmesan
2 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 ½ pounds baking potatoes (e.g. Idaho), peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces
1 medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped (2/3 cup)
3 c. chicken broth
1 c. water
1 sprig rosemary or ¼ teaspoon crumbled dried rosemary (I used the dried rosemary)
Salt to taste (optional)
1/3 c. Parmesan cheese (preferably freshly grated)
3 T. dry Marsala
¼ teaspoon freshly group white pepper (Hmmm…mine was not freshly ground. I wonder if that’s it?!)
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (Again, went with not freshly ground variety).

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the pumpkin, potatoes, onion, broth, water, rosemary, and salt (if desired. I desired, but it still didn’t help). Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan, and simmer the ingredients for 30 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Discard the rosemary sprig, if you used one.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender and return the puree to the saucepan. Heat the soup to a simmer and add the Parmesan, Marsala, pepper and nutmeg. Adjust the seasonings before serving the soup.

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