Halloween came a week early this year when I came perilously close to chopping the tip of my left thumb off. It’s been months since my last knife wound thanks in part to knife skills lessons from various and sundry professionals (thank you, Obi Wan) and from a year’s worth of diligent practice; but it was like Dan Akroyd’s Julia Child from the late 1970’s SNL skit where blood just shoots out all over the place in a fountain of red corn syrup. Hilarious. Only mine was plasma and platelets which are apparently necessary to sustain human life. Anyway, I spent a large part of the afternoon with my left hand propped over my head wrapped in a roll of paper towels trying to avoid a trip to the emergency room for stitches since I let my health insurance lapse a few weeks ago. Eventually the bleeding slowed enough for me coat the digit with enough neosporin to support two girls in a mud wrestling vat and to dress it with a sterile bandage and cover it with a rubber glove so I could continue cooking.
And that wasn’t the only creepy occurrence.
There was this little thing a while back where my subconscious rendered an ex boyfriend dead. As in totally kaput. Morto.
Yes, I had a dream, but not a dream in a MLK or a copper pot kind of way, oh no. It was like when Jimmy Smitts was written out of NYPD Blue: there were tears and there was pleading and then the dude died. As in dead. As disco. And I woke up sweaty and full of guilt and shame (guilt because I realized the One Night Stand-Up was sleeping next to me, and shame because technically I should now refer to him as the “Two Night Stand-Up”, which isn’t nearly as funny).
Freud would probably have a thing or two to say, I’m quite sure, but I’ll just tell you there is nothing like having an ex die in your dreams at the hands of your own noggin to make a girl feel like a ghoul. A part of me must love having these ghosts around to haunt me.
Which of course brings us to scary things like October, Halloween, Mid-Term elections and pumpkins. Or it brings us back to a year ago when I was scared to death of the stove and decided to challenge myself to a little soup project, finding a nice recipe for the seasonally appropriate butternut squash. This week, as part of my soupaversary, I wanted to revisit my first attempt at soup-crafting and prove to myself that I’ve made some sort of progress in this year, even if it is only in learning how to utilize a knife (though the success of this is clearly dubious, as evidenced by the above description of thumb decapitation). So I settled on this menu:
spinach and gruyère stuffed mushromms
California got cheese with pistachio and dried cranberry with toasts
ribboned romaine and flash-pickled fig salad
butternut squash and apple purée with toasted pumpkin seeds and blue cheese
apple pie ice cream
Not scary at all.
And besides the fact that after the thumb incident, as I was finishing up the soup, I was pretty sure I was going to barf and then pass out and someone else was going to have to finish the entire night for me, It was a flawless anniversary meal.
The dirty deets:
Epicurious | October 2006
by Shawn McClain
Chef-owner Shawn McClain of Custom House restaurant in Chicago created this recipe for Epicurious's Wine.Dine.Donate program. He recommends using a creamy, mild blue cheese like Fourme d'Ambert.
Yield: Makes 10 (first-course) servings
6 pounds butternut squash, split lengthwise and seeded
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
4 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 apples (Braeburn, Fuji, or Gala), peeled, cored, and sliced thinly
3 cups apple cider
1 gallon vegetable stock
1/2 pound blue cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons green (hulled) pumpkin seeds
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place squash cut side down on rimmed one-inch-deep sheet pan. Add 2 cups water and roast until squash is very tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, drain off any remaining water, and let cool.
Meanwhile, in heavy, 12-quart pot over moderate heat, melt butter. Add onions, garlic, celery, 3 tablespoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and sauté until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add apples and sauté until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add apple cider and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until liquid is reduced by half.
When squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh and add to soup. Add stock and remaining tablespoon salt, raise heat to high, and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until all vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes.
In double boiler over medium heat, heat cheese and heavy cream, stirring occasionally, until melted, about 10 minutes. Keep warm.
In dry, heavy, 9- to 10-inch cast iron skillet over moderate heat, toast pumpkin seeds, stirring constantly, until puffed and golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl.
Working in batches, purée soup in blender until very smooth, then return to pot. Set over moderate heat and return to simmer.
To serve, ladle hot soup into bowls, drizzle with blue cheese mixture, and sprinkle with toasted pumpkin seeds. Serve immediately.
Just to put a fine point on it, I changed the recipe in the following way-- one small bottle of sparkling cider in lieu of 3 cups regular apple cider and less stock than called for. And I was pretty “loose” in following most of the amounts. Oh, and I made enough for 30 people.
So now I find myself here, a year older and a year a little less wise, in all likelihood. And my subconscious is clearly trying to tell me what my conscious mind wants to ignore... that the past is truly dead.
Which would be really sad if it weren’t for the fact that the future is totally up for grabs; so I’ve got that going for me, which is good.
As for my thumb, it seems to be regenerating quite nicely, thank you for asking. But I will have a divot, a little lopped-off area to remind me of a thrillingly terrifying year.
And THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you who read the blog or who showed up in the last 12 months (I do love you, sweet soupers o’ mine) for one event (JJ, please come back from NY because I really miss your face), a few events (Gorgeous G, you’ve got more pimping to do on my behalf and I promise I’ll adhere to your dietary standards), or most of them (Bossy, Bangs!, Leggsy, Jihad, Inner-city Velvet, LL Bacon J, Semi-sweet Bitters and Legal Eagle-- your palates have been my playground, and I am forever thankful for your kinship and for your startlingly loose ideas about propriety).
And I couldn’t forget my favorite gay boyfriend who is currently all the way in China-- you have been sorely missed by all. Now go and save the world and come home for a bowl of soup. It’ll be waiting for you on the stove.