Just Like at Melville’s!


So, my last trip to Boston included more tourist-y things than I should admit – The Commons, Faneuil Hall, a Duck Tour on the Charles, Bunker Hill, etc. – but then, my dorkiness already is well-established, isn’t it?  Besides, I was on vacation!  Plus, I was with a good friend and really enjoyed myself.

Even so, nothing set me apart more as being out-of-town than visiting the Bull and Finch Pub, which provided all of the exterior shots for Cheers.  Honestly, once there, I had to restrain myself from asking to see Norm, Cliff, Carla and Sam.

If you recall the old TV series, upstairs from the bar was an imposing, high-class restaurant called Melville’s.  “Melville’s” really exists, except in our world it’s called Hampshire House, and it’s actually even nicer than what the television series imagined.  Follow this link to see for yourself.

Anyway, when I spotted a collection of Hampshire House recipes, the foodie in me knew what to do.  Of all the dishes Executive Chef Markus Ripperger presented, none was more accessible, more supremely autumn-in-New-England, than Pumpkin Soup.

The recipe called for fresh pumpkins, and wishing my first attempt to be as faithful as possible, that’s exactly what I acquired.  My friend, the same one who was with me in Boston, has more experience than I working with pumpkins.  When I mentioned what I intended to create, she suggested I save myself a lot of trouble and use canned pumpkin instead.  She was right.

Had I taken the friend’s advice, I would’ve saved myself hours of hacking away at annoyingly rock-like gourds, then painstakingly separating all the seeds and stringy inner pulp.  I suppose Markus Ripperger has sous-chefs to accomplish this for him, but I’m not so lucky.  The lengths I take to pursue culinary ideals for you, my readers!

When I told another friend what I was making, he was afraid the soup would taste too much of pumpkin pie, which he dislikes.  I don’t care for pumpkin pie either, so I held my breath while preparing the soup.  Happily, the soup is so much different (and in my opinion so much better) than pumpkin pie.

Warmth spreads from each spoonful of silky, creamy elixir, making this a comfortable sweatshirt on a chilly day.  In fact, the taste so evokes fall, it’d make a wonderful first course for Thanksgiving dinner in a month or so.  Plus, this soup is just perfectly New England, a region seemingly created with autumn in mind.

Wicked awesome!

*****

Pumpkin Soup

  • 1 fresh pumpkin, peeled and diced*
  • 1 onion, chopped**
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 bunch celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fume blanc
  • 20 oz. turkey stock***
  • touch of thyme, nutmeg and bay leaf, to taste****
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt, freshly-ground pepper, to taste

Cut vegetables into 1/2-inch cubes and saute them briefly in the olive oil (don’t worry too much about appearances, as everything will be pureed in a blender).  Add the turkey stock and the wine and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, add the herbs and simmer.

Once the vegetables are soft, remove the soup from the heat until it cools a bit.  Extract the herbs****, then puree the remaining mixture in a blender.  Season to taste with salt and freshly-ground pepper.  If necessary, return to original pot and reheat until the soup is hot enough.

*****

NOTES:

*Do yourself a favor and just buy a can of Libby’s instead.  Sure, using fresh pumpkin may add 10% more depth, but it’s not worth all the effort, in my opinion.  Learn from my example.

**I used two medium-sized shallots instead of an onion, as I prefer their more refined taste.

***I made my own turkey stock, but canned would be fine too.  For that matter, you could use a similar quantity of vegetable stock, which would make this a vegetarian option, of course.

****This is to taste, so do what you prefer, but I used a whole nutmeg and rasped it first so the flavor would be released more readily.  Also included an entire sprig of fresh thyme.  Take the nutmeg, thyme and bay leaf and wrap them in a cheese cloth tied shut with a string.

This allows you the pretension of telling people you created a bouquet garni and, much more important, it makes it much easier to remove the thyme, nutmeg and bay leaf, which you must do before pureeing the soup.

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