Recipe courtesy Alex Guarnaschelli, executive chef, Butter, New York City
In a sea of squash soups, Guarnaschelli’s version, redolent with brown butter, molasses and Worcestershire sauce, then brightened with citrus, is one of the most deeply flavored. The popcorn garnish is a salty, irresistible touch.
- 1 medium pumpkin (about 3 pounds), cut in half, seeds and pulp discarded
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses, plus more if needed
- Kosher salt and white pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- Grated zest and juice of ½ orange
- 1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, plus more if needed
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 1 cup skim milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 cup water
- Juice of ½ lemon, or to taste
- 1 cup freshly popped and salted popcorn
Preheat an oven to 375°F. Place the pumpkin in a shallow roasting pan, cut sides up. Put 4 teaspoons of the butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat just until it starts to brown and smell nutty. Pour the butter over the pumpkin halves and into the cavities, then sprinkle the brown sugar and molasses. Season with salt and pepper. Put the ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a small fine-mesh strainer, and dust the pumpkin halves and cavities.
Cover the pumpkin halves snugly with aluminum foil and put the pan in the oven. Add about an inch of water to the pan (to create steam while it bakes), and cook for 90 minutes, or until a small knife slides easily through the pumpkin. Keeping the pumpkin halves upright, remove the pan from the oven, take off the foil and cool to room temperature.
Using a large spoon, scoop the pumpkin flesh into a large pot, taking care to get all of the cooking liquid inside the cavities, but none of the skin or liquid in the bottom of the baking sheet. Over low heat, mix in half of the orange zest, orange juice, Worcestershire sauce and garlic. Taste the mixture. If it lacks sweetness, add a little molasses, and if it lacks salt, add a little salt or Worcestershire sauce.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, brown the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and add it into the pumpkin mixture. In the same saucepan as the butter, heat the milk, cream and water. Season with salt and pepper, bring to a simmer and stir it into the pumpkin.
Transfer the soup to a blender and purée, adding salt, pepper or orange zest, if needed, and a little water if it’s too thick. Stir in lemon juice, one teaspoon at a time, to brighten the flavors, to taste. Serve the soup garnished with popcorn, with more on the side. Serves 4.
Michael Schachner, Wine Enthusiast’s Spanish and South American editor, suggests Errazuriz 2013 Aconcagua Costa Chardonnay to match the soup’s rich, roast flavors, as well as the popcorn element. “The popcorn and white-fruit aromas are toasty and nutty, and flavors of apple, peach, papaya and buttered movie popcorn finish oaky, briny and elegant, with a chiseled, acid-driven feel.”