My favorite season has arrived!
Autumn? You’re thinking. Almost. Potimarron season.
A potimarron is a medium-sized winter squash which looks kind of like a pumpkin and tastes like chestnuts. Actually, thanks to this site, I just learned that potimarron is a combination of the French word for pumpkin (potiron) and chestnut (marron)- I love that kind of stuff! Don’t get confused, though- it’s not an acorn or butternut squash (winter cousins). In English, it’s most-commonly called Hokkaido squash.
We know it by a Japanese name, however in Japan they supposedly call it “Chinese squash.” I’ve also seen it called red kuri (referring to the orange variety). What’s in a name? Like Romeo, wouldn’t a potimarron by any other name taste just as savory?
Needless of what we call it, these cheery babies have flooded the French farmer’s markets. The most common skin color seems to be bright orange, though I’ve also cooked the deep green ones which are just as nice. Inside, they’re both a dark yellowy-orange- a sign of beta carotene, an excellent immune builder.
A year ago I wasn’t buying potimarrons. It’s not the kind of vegetable I would have thought to buy on my own- despite its looking so cute and friendly at the market. I first discovered it thanks to my panier de légumes biologiques last January (incidentally, the same day Obama was sworn in). Since I had one, I had to figure out what to do with it. At first, my potimarron was a little intimidating- you have to cut through the tough outer skin to get to the meat inside. Once I got through chopping and made it into a soup, I fell for this new-found squash instantly. Now I make my soupe de potimarron whenever I’m in the mood for a warm (and easy) treat- perfect for the cool autumn days ahead.
A few notes: The first time I made this soup, I had about 15 carrots in the house- thanks again to my vegetable basket. I threw one in (in an attempt to get rid of them little by little) and it stuck to this recipe. I think it adds a nice, sweet flavor to the soup.
Also, the first few times I made this soup, I did it the hard way and spent about half an hour sawing through the skin and cutting the raw insides into small squares. Only then would I proceeded to making my soup. Recently, a friend told me I should try roasting the potimarron in the oven first, and then making the soup. Today, this is exactly what I did- and it made it so much easier. I’ll stick with this approach for the recipe below- but if you don’t have an oven (like many young people in Paris) you can do it the more difficult, time-consuming way and cook it directly in the soup pot with the carrots- it’s still worth it.
Makes 2 big bowls or 4 small starters.
1 carrot (chopped into rounds)
1 red onion (diced)
3/4 – 1 cup milk
1/4 – 1/2 cup water
Tumeric (Curcuma in French)
1. Prepare the potimarron
– Cut it in half and spoon out the seeds.
– Cut it into 5 or 6 large pieces and place on a baking sheet.
– Sprinkle with olive oil, a little salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until soft and beginning to roast.
– Remove and let cool enough to handle.
2. Prepare the onions and carrots
– When the squash is nearly done, sauté the onions in olive oil (in a soup pot).
– Add the carrots after a few minutes.
– Add 3/4 cup milk and 1/4 cup water after another few minutes and let simmer.
3. Add the potimarron
– Scoop the squash out of its skin and add to the soup pot (when the carrots are beginning to get soft).
– Stir the chunky mixture to combine ingredients and let simmer a few minutes, adding more milk/water if needed.
– Add the salt, pepper and spices to taste.
4. Blend until smooth and creamy
I use Molly, the blender (no, not all the kitchen appliances have names, but she’s special). You can also use a little hand-blender, like you find in most French kitchen.
Once all is blended the soup’s ready. I like to sprinkle it with toasted pine nuts or seeds.