It’s almost winter. Actually, it’s winter for me already. Petit copain complains that it’s still fall, but all I know is that it is too cold for my Californian blood. My two year anniversary of living in Paris passed in September and you’d think I’d get used to this kind of weather by now. This is actually going to be my fourth winter in Paris, because my first time visiting Paris was during winter when it snowed like crazy. Yes, I’ve been to snowy places in the States, but something about winter in Europe is just too cold for me (perhaps because we're so up north?).
Unfortunately, it hasn't really snowed in Paris since that intense winter four years ago. Actually, I'm kind of glad. You'd think snow in Paris would be magical, but it makes a terrible mess in the City of Lights. The snow doesn’t keep for long and it melts into a horrible and dangerous cesspool of dirty city water. If you come to Paris when it snows, be sure to bring slip-resistant shoes!
Okay, okay, snow can be quite pretty in the gardens and around monuments. But other than that, be very careful of slipping or getting soaked in the dirty, semi-frozen water. Petit copain doesn’t believe it will snow again this year, but I guess we’ll see.
Since I’m always cold, I crave a lot of tea and soup. Soup is very different in France than it is in the States. Soups are usually made of pureed vegetables and never contain anything chunky like noodles or rice. I wasn’t such a big fan of these vegetable soups until I discovered potimarron, or red kuri squash. This bright deep orange squash can be prepared either savory or sweet. I’ve actually baked potimarron into a successful pumpkin pie! But in France, you will often find potimarron only in soup form.
Potimarron is an interesting name, as poti comes from potiron (squash) and marron means chestnut. Potimarron definitely has a chestnut taste and it's one of the more sweeter squashes. I'm very addicted and I keep making soups out of it. It's definitely my go-to winter soup now. The cheery redish orange hue makes me feel like I'm eating sunshine (or that's what I tell myself!). Paris is too grey these days and I need a little warmth inside.
I’ve adapted my recipe from Chez Pim’s. Instead of thyme, they use sage butter. The original recipe is located here.
Red Kuri Squash Soup (Potimarron) with Thyme
1 small red kuru squash/potimarron (about 1-2 lbs or .9 kg) 1 big yellow onion, cut into cubes 4 thyme sprigs, fresh or dried 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped 4+ cups milk (about .8 to .9 liters) 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter or oil (about 10 grams) salt and pepper to taste
Set oven to 175 C / 345 F. Cover a sheet pan with foil.
Potimarron can be quite hard to cut into, so I suggest microwaving it for a minute or two to soften it up. Be careful of handling the squash after the microwave. Use mittens to take it out and let the squash cool before cutting it in half. Once cool, cut off the stem and bottom bulb. Carefully peel the skin off both halves.
Cut the squash into slices or big cubes and lay them out on the sheet pan. Using butter or oil, rub each piece of squash.
Lay thyme sprigs on squash (do not sprinkle) and put the pan in the oven. Be careful not to burn or dry out the tops of the squash. To avoid this, you can loosely cover the pan with a sheet of foil on top.
After about 15 minutes or when the squash is halfway done cooking, sprinkle the garlic over the potimarron pieces. Recover with foil. Continue cooking or until squash is ready (when a fork can easily pierce through the flesh), about 10 or 15 more minutes. Pull out pan and set aside.
While cooking the squash, place a frying pan on low heat. Add the onions with the rest of the butter or oil and cook until they caramelize, about 10-15 minutes.
Pick out the thyme and garlic from the squash and discard. Optional: I usually do include the herbs and garlic in the soup (I pick off the thyme leaves from the sprigs and sprinkle them into the soup), but it takes a lot of pureeing to make sure there aren’t large pieces of thyme or garlic floating around.
Add the cooked potimarron and onions into a medium pot with four cups of milk, a few pinches of salt, and some pepper. Cook on low heat until the soup starts to slightly boil. Turn off the heat and blend the ingredients into a smooth puree. You can use a hand blender or a stand blender/food processor (the latter is preferred if you want to keep the thyme and garlic in your soup). After pureeing, you may want to add more milk to the soup, depending on how thick you want it to be. Add more salt and pepper as desired. Once the soup is at the right consistency, you can pour the blended soup back into the pot and again place it on low heat. Stir continuously until the soup boils again.
Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or kiri cheese on top. Enjoy!