On our recent trip to Gascony we once again enjoyed the sight of plump orange potiron squash at local markets. We’ve watched vendors slice wedges from these squat, pumpkin-esque gourds, but never bought even a piece—although we would often joke about what we’d do if we ended up with a whole one for ourselves. Now, thanks to our friends at Foxhollow Farm, we know (sort of).
The drought-stricken year seems to have barely slowed Foxhollow’s production of squashes, and as the season draws to a close we’ve ended up with quite a pile on the counter. Along with the butternut, spaghetti and chestnut-flavored potimarron squashes was something called “Long Island Cheese,” which looked to us much like the potirons we saw in Gascony.
We kept looking at it on the counter, wondering (as in France) what we could do with it. Then one of our cats forced the issue by poking either a claw or fang into the cucurbit, leaving a nick that demanded quick use of the Cheese. We decided this feline fait accompli gave us the perfect opportunity to see how a potiron-ish squash fared in a proven-tasty recipe we’ve adapted from Paula Wolfert. We sliced and roasted the squash, finding it less orange and rich than a potiron, so we added some sweet potatoes to the mix. We topped each bowl with pan-fried croutons and slices of salty Finchville Farms country ham. This version lacked the unctuousness of duck fat (we neglected to bring some back with us from Gascony this year) but it was still very good, and a good way to reduce the squash pile. Mingling France and Foxhollow is quite a pleasure—something we’ll certainly miss as Winter finally sets in.
SQUASH SOUP WITH COUNTRY HAM AND CROUTONS
(adapted from Paula Wolfert’s The Cooking of Southwest France)
- 2-3 lbs. winter squash
- 2 TB olive oil
- 1-2 TB butter (or, if you are lucky enough to have it, duck fat)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/2 lb. potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 4 c. chicken stock
- 1/2 c. heavy cream
- Pinch of paprika and/or ground hot pepper
- Salt and pepper
- Julienned country ham
- Thin slices of stale baguette
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve, quarter or otherwise divide the squash (depending on what type you are using). Seed, and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake about 30 minutes, until soft. Turn off oven and let sit for about 10 minutes more. Remove from oven. When cool enough to handle, cut flesh away from and discard the skin.
Heat oil and 1 TB of butter or duck fat in a soup pot. Add onions. After a bit, add potatoes, sweet potatoes and garlic cloves and cook slowly until vegetables are beginning to soften. Add chicken broth and simmer for 20 minutes. Add cooked squash and simmer 10 minutes more.
Purée solids with a little of the soup liquid in a blender in batches. Return to pot. Season with salt, pepper and paprika. Add cream and, if soup is too thick, some more chicken stock.
In a small skillet, fry country ham ribbons in a bit of butter, olive oil or duck fat. When browned, remove from pan and set aside. Add a little more fat to the skillet and fry baguette slices, turning until crisp and browned.
Garnish bowls of soup with baguette slices topped with ham.