Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pumpkin Soup Meltdown

Never bite off more than you can chew. All of us have recurring lessons that we never quite learn or process and this particular cliche is my cross to bear in the kitchen. The lesson was brought home last night in my four hour foray into pumpkin soup.

Harvest Pumpkin Soup, to be exact, a recent Martha Stewart recipe. My approach to cooking is often to research recipes (preferably on or any site with reader feedback), and then modify them with anything I think might improve the dish. With guests coming on Friday night (and my working during the day), I needed something to make in advance. And I trust Martha's judgment, which often errs on the side of adding butter. This approach really works, by the way.

My menu includes the pumpkin soup, surf and turf appetizers consisting of steak, crabmeat and hollandaise (with a shout-out to Top Chef for the inspiration), sweet potato pancakes with creme fraiche and caviar, and good bread and herbed butter for the soup. My Chiles Rellenos friend is bringing dessert. Pumpkin cocktails, spiced sweet potato chips and dip and caramel popcorn complete the meal. Thanks go out to Whole Foods for carrying sugar pumpkins, the state store for miraculously carrying pumpkin liqueur, Caviar Assouline for not just caviar but also creme fraiche, and DiBruno's for their recently expanded meat and seafood selections. I've managed to collect decorations, carve a pumpkin and purchase an extra chair.

So back to t-minus two days until I will have officially bitten off more than I can chew. I made the classic mistake of not reading the recipe before beginning to cook. Which means, as you would predict, it was quite possibly the hardest recipe short of making bread. Martha asked me - yes, I began to take it personally - to make pumpkin broth first, which then is added to a more typical soup puree base. Of course, the recipe read something like this: 1. remove the seeds and stringy fibers from two sugar pumpkins. (done! threw those right in the trash!) 2. bake the pumpkins for 50 minutes. (they're in there! baking away!) 3. take the reserved seeds and fibers and begin the broth. (huh? really? the ones in the trash?)

After carving up additional pumpkins for the sole purpose of obtaining said seeds and fibers, and after chopping and cooking the numerous turnips, potatoes, and parsnips, I then was instructed to blend the mixture in the batches. A couple of blends went well and then things got ugly. The soup was probably a little too hot and I was a little too tired, but the lid popped off and pumpkin soup dribbled forth. Which would have been a good wake-up call, if I choose to heed that warning. I didn't. I only became less patient. The next batch I chose to blend more without any wait. Resulting in a pumpkin soup explosion. Over me. Over the kitchen. Over the cats. Later, as I discovered, over the ceiling, if that's even possible.

Prompting the meltdown. The Patient Boyfriend ("T.P.B.") fetched ice. I announced, "that's it! I'm not making dinner! I'm not finishing the soup! I'm done!" There may have been tears. T.P.B. tasted the soup and thought it was good. I modestly protested and was not so modestly pleased. Over the next two hours, I managed to clean the explosion, apply lidocaine and aloe to my arms, make dinner, eat ice cream and watch a scary movie.

And the dinner's back on. Wish me luck.

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