8 small (1 pound each) pumpkins
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups milk or half-and-half, heated
1 bay leaf
1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin purée
Salt and freshly-ground pepper, to taste
1 apple, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch dice
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 pinch freshly-grated or ground nutmeg
1/4 cup dry sherry (optional)
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
Cut off tops of the pumpkins and clean out the seeds and strings. Scoop out part of the pulp to form a clean cavity.
In a 4-quart heavy saucepan or stockpot, melt 1/3 cup of the butter over medium heat and sauté onion until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and stir to form a paste. Cook and stir over low heat for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk the warm milk or half-and-half into flour mixture. Add the bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 15 minutes.
Add the pumpkin purée and simmer an additional 15 minutes over very low heat.
Strain through doubled cheesecloth or pass through a food mill. Season with salt and pepper.
In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and sauté the apple for 2 minutes. Add the thyme and nutmeg and cook 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until the apple is tender but not mushy.
Spoon a portion of apple into each carved pumpkin bowl. Add the sherry, if using, to the hot soup and pour into the pumpkin bowls on top of the apples. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and serve.
Makes 8 servings.
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