The Great Squash Soup Duel: Davis vs. Dye

 

As most of you know, the Jonathans are the creative culinary force behind OurLocaltopia. They are each extremely talented cooks, with divergent styles that inform and strengthen each other. Occasionally their differences come out in epic Iron chef style duels, like the one detailed below. I was lucky enough to experience this duel in person, and while I could never pick a decisive winner, the  process was educational and, of course, delicious! Read on for details on two seemingly similar dishes, prepared by different cooks, with different (yet intersecting) philosophies. Enjoy!  – Evelyn

A Simple Squash Bisque – By Jonathan Duffy Davis

My kitchen colleague and good friend Jonathan Dye is the master of elegance. If I had just returned from Southern Oregon, having dug wild truffles from the soil beneath stately oak trees, I’d hand them straight to Mr. Dye. I might use them to infuse a cream sauce to be served with a simple pasta. Jonathan Dye, however, will work into the night, rolling pasta dough gossamer-thin, to create a ravioli filled with a truffle-infused wild venison ragu, swimming in a sage brush consommé. (I’m honestly not quite sure exactly what he would do, but it would definitely be beyond fantastic.)

We folks at OurLocaltoia have a barrage of autumn and squash themed posts that will come your way over the next few weeks. When planning these posts we were discussing a potential squash soup. Jonathan Dye had an elaborate plan for a soup containing a delicious chicken stock, carefully prepared crutons, gruyere cheese, and chives to be cooked and served in the squash that will flavour the soup……

“A bit complex, don’t you think. Mr. Dye?” I asked.

“Jonathan. We are trying to elevate the quality of food that our readers serve on their tables,” Mr. Dye responded.

“But, squash soup should be a body-warming and simple stick-to-your ribs affair,” I parried.

“Well maybe we should both make our soups and see which one people prefer!” said Dye.

-The gauntlet had been dropped-

 We grabbed our squashes of choice, raced to our cutting boards, and got down to mise en place.

Let the Squash Duel Begin – En Garde, Monsieur Dye!

This is an extraordinary soup and it’s so easy to make. Served in the right vessel (perhaps a small pumpkin or gourd) and carefully garnished, you’ll have the makings of an elegant start to a fantastic meal. I first made this recipe with what I believe to be the most noble of squash varieties – Geraumon Martinique. I have never seen this squash variety for sale but you should certainly grow it. The skin is smooth and tan with contrasting green stripes. The flesh is dense and substantial without being stringy. Unfortunately, I failed to grow any of this variety this year –What can I say? I guess I’m a sucker for novelty.

Not having any Geraumon Martinique, I opted for Lakota and it was an excellent substitute, with a nutty aroma and voluptuous texture. Lakota can sometimes be found at local farmers’ markets. If you’re not in the mood for a hunt, butternut makes a great substitute and can be found at any grocery store. Here’s my recipe:

Simple Squash Bisque

Ingredients

2 pounds Winter Squash

¾ lb Bacon

3 ribs celery

3 large carrots

2 medium onions

2 apples

2 cloves garlic – Minced

1/2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tbs smoked paprika

2 sage leaves or 1 tsp of powdered sage

1 liter of chicken stock

1 cup of heavy cream

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Freshly ground cardamom for garnish (perhaps some cream as well)

Method

Halve squash, remove seeds with spoon, and place face-down on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350 F oven for 30 – 40 minutes until the flesh of the squash is fork-tender. Use a spoon to scrape the flesh from the skin and set squash flesh aside.

Finely chop bacon, add to stock pot, and cook over medium-low heat until rendered and crispy. Remove the cooked bacon and reserve for garnish or other application.

Add chopped celery, carrots, and onions to the bacon fat and cook over medium heat until translucent

Add minced garlic, cinnamon, and smoked paprika and cook until aroma is apparent and garlic has become translucent (approximately 45 seconds)

Add chicken stock, sage, and roasted winter squash flesh and simmer over medium heat for twenty minutes.

Puree contents of pot in upright blender, working in batches to avoid spills.

Add heavy cream and return soup to temperature

Season with salt and pepper to taste (white pepper would provide a more uniform appearance but I feel that it is a flavour compromise. I always opt for black pepper.)

Garnish sparingly with cardamom and black pepper OR bacon and black pepper (I’m not sure that bacon and cardamom would make great friends). A couple of drops of heavy cream look nice as a garnish as well.

Now, Mr. Dye, give it your best shot!

– Jonathan Duffy Davis

Roast Pumpkin Soup – By Jonathan Dye

I would like to start by saying that I am impressed by Jonathan Davis’ kitchen acumen, regardless of how much a “gourmand” he thinks I am – which is a term I’d NEVER associate with myself.  I’m self-taught, always trying new things that I think will expand my repertoire.  But that said… I have seen Jonathan Davis perform mysterious and fruitful kitchen alchemy on several occasions, and I have been the beneficiary of several Davis dishes, all of which provided something that I generally don’t achieve myself… newness.  Jonathan works on his feet, he has this amazing product in his back pocket (farm fresh produce AND a knowledge of what it can uniquely bring to the table), and he’s not afraid to flaunt it in a fabulous, simple arena.  In getting to appreciate Jonathan Davis’ cooking over the last year, I would say that a paramount observation is that his ingredients just aren’t usual.  They are spectacular.  When we all gathered to create this blog, the term “local” was imperative but I hadn’t a true understanding.  He and his produce have brought that understanding to me, for which I’m forever grateful.

As Jonathan stated, we wanted to create a series of pumpkin based posts, of which pumpkin soup was one topic.  He had his idea, I had mine.  As much as I love Jonathan and his ideas, I felt I could bring something to the table, too.  Self taught as I am, two muses of mine are Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton (the women of the famed Canal House).  I had been fantasizing about one of the recipes from their latest book Canal House Cooks Every Day.  A truly romantic notion, their extremely basic soup is roasted, wholly inside of a sturdy pumpkin with nothing more than a good stock and a few basic add-ins.  No tiresome work, but an homage to the glory of basically good ingredients that come together in harmony after a few hours in the oven.  This was my cup of tea.

What you see here is not a battle of wits and valor (I’ll leave that to Hollywood blockbusters).  But it is the efforts of two enthusiasts trying to celebrate some awesome ingredients that produce very different soups, each with merits, textures and tastes that are entirely their own.  Personally I love the romance that my recipe affords; soup roasted in a pumpkin is a fairly spectacular idea, let alone providing a spectacular serving vessel to boot.  The recipe it uses one of my favorite spices, piment d’esplette.  Basque pepper from the region between France and Spain, it’s worth the hefty price ($20.00 per 1.4 ounces) because the flavor, far more than the spice, is unparalleled.  When I read the recipe I was instantly mesmerized.  I’m sure you will be too.  Take a look at the recipe, and take time to read our post about home-made stocks.  With a recipe that utilizes as few ingredients as this, quality of each component is paramount.

Try it out, with your family or friends, for an interesting and festive homage to a seasonally relevant ingredient that will bring a smile to your guests faces.  A truly unique recipe, it’s worth a try.  Don’t forget to scoop the pumpkin flesh from the gourd as you serve the soup; it makes it all the better.  Let us know how you like it!

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Serves 6-8

 Use a heavy, thick-fleshed pumpkin variety like the orange Cinderella (Rouge Vif d’Etamps), the beige cheese, or the blue jarrahdale for this soup.  Their thick sturdy walls won’t collapse as the pumpkin roasts in the oven.  Recipe adapted from Canal House Cooks Everyday, Hamilton and Hirscheimer.

 Ingredients

 1 Cinderella, cheese, or blue Jarrahdale pumpkin, 5-8 pounds

4-8 tablespoons butter, softened

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

2 generous pinches of piment d’Esplette (basque red chile powder)

Salt and pepper

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 cup fresh white bread crumbs

2-3 cups grated gruyere cheese

2 bay leaves

4-6 cups chicken stock

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut out a wide lid around the stem of the pumpkin, scrape off and discard any seeds, and set the lid aside.  Using a metal spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds and strings from the inside.

Put the pumpkin in a roasting pan, rub the flesh inside the pumpkin with the butter, then with the ground fennel, piment d’Esplette, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add the garlic, bread crumbs, cheese and bay leaves.  Pour enough stock into the pumpkin to come within about 3 inches of the rim.  Fit the lid back on the pumpkin.

Roast the pumpkin for 1 hour.  Remove the lid and place it flesh side up beside the pumpkin.  Continue roasting the pumpkin until the flesh inside is soft when pierced with a paring knife, taking care not to puncture the skin, 30-90 minutes depending on the size of the pumpkin.

Carefully transfer the pumpkin to a serving platter.  Remove and discard the bay leaves.  Replace the lid for effect, if you like.  Serve the pumpkin soup at the table, scraping big spoonfuls of the flesh from the bottom and sides into the broth, then ladling the soup into bowls.

I think both of these soups are worth a try, each with their own flair and flavors! Good Eating!

-Jonathan Dye

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