Pour on the pumpkin

Note: This recipe is one of a year-end series of classic Acquired Tastes from the C-VILLE archives. This one first ran in 2002.

Think pumpkins are just for Jack-O-Lanterns and pie? Think again. Trae Tomko, sous chef at the Blue Light Grill on the Downtown Mall, has a tasty pumpkin bisque recipe that’ll make you wish you’d saved all the sticky, seedy pumpkin meat that went out with the trash after Halloween. Using ideas from a Culinary Institute of America cookbook and a few tricks from "Mom’s old pumpkin pie recipe," Tomko’s bisque was so popular when it was served at Blue Light that it reportedly brought in a lot of calls besides our own. "I took advantage of a seasonal thing," he says. Get yourself in a seasonal mood by warming up with a big bowl of bisque.—Pam Jiranek

Blue Light Grill’s Pumpkin Bisque

Note: This recipe makes about three gallons. Tomko says readers may cut the proportions as needed. He also says if you use canned pumpkin, use less water in the stock.

1 leek, diced
1 bunch celery, diced
1 Vidalia onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
a pinch of garlic
a pinch of fresh nutmeg
a little brown sugar
1/4 lb. butter
2 gallons water
8 oz. tomato juice
1/2 cup flour
1 pumpkin (Tomko’s was about 11 lbs.)
4 oz. heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper

To make the stock, add all the ends from vegetables to about two gallons of water, seasoned with thyme, salt and pepper. Let simmer until ready for use.

In a large pot, slowly cook leek, celery, onion, carrots, garlic, nutmeg and sugar in butter until everything wilts and there’s a "sort of syrupyness" to it. Add tomato juice and let seep briefly before slowly adding 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour to achieve a "wet sand consistency." Meanwhile, cut top off pumpkin and separate seeds from flesh. Tomko used an ice cream scoop to "wear away the inside" and get about 1 1/2 lbs. flesh. (He carved a Jack-O-Lantern afterwards.) Add pumpkin flesh and vegetable stock to roux in pot. Bring to a slow boil, stirring often. Let simmer to reduce, about 15-20 mins. Pour soup into blender or food processor, add cream, blend, and then strain through "not too fine" strainer. Tomko "after-seasons" with fresh nutmeg, salt and white pepper, then tops the bisque with toasted pumpkin seeds and pumpernickel croutons.

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