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Kabocha squash and fennel soup with crème fraîche and candied pumpkin seeds

Kabocha Squash and Fennel Soup 
With crème fraîche and candied pumpkin seeds
Chef Scott loves this rich and creamy soup recipe he adapted from Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques. The deep red orange hue of the kabocha squash makes for a stunning soup, especially when accented with crème fraîche and spiced and candied pumpkin seeds. You can substitute another squash (like butternut) but it’s worth seeking out a kabocha for it’s excellent sweetness, earthy flavor, and custardy texture.
Serves: six
Total time: 1.5 hours (including the roasting of the squash)
Active time: 30 minutes
Ingredients
2 pounds kabocha squash
2 medium bulbs of fresh fennel
2 cups sliced onions
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
2 chiles de árbol
3/4 cup sherry
10 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup crème fraîche
Candied pumpkin seeds (see recipe below)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place the squash on a foil-lined sheet pan, flesh side down. Roast in the oven until soft, about 35-40 minutes. When it’s cool enough to handle, scoop out all of the squash meat and add it to a large soup pot.
  3. Cut the fennel and onion into thin slices. Sauté in a sauce pot with butter and olive oil. Season with salted pepper. Cook for about 35 minutes, until tender and slightly caramelized. Add to the squash mixture in the soup pot.
  4. Toast the fennel seeds in a small pan over medium heat for two to three minutes, until the seeds release their aroma and are lightly browned. Pound them coarsely in a mortar.
  5. In a separate sauce pot, add the sherry and reduce by half. Add it to the soup pot.
  6. Add the ground fennel seeds, thyme, chiles, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to the soup pot. 
  7. Add the stock and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Take off the heat and let cool slightly.
  8. In batches, process the squash mixture in a food processor until smooth.
  9. Strain the soup through a semi-fine strainer, removing the solids and discarding them. 
  10. Pour the soup into six bowls, spoon some crème fraîche in the center of each, and scatter the pumpkin seeds over the top. Or serve family-style in a tureen with the crème fraîche and pumpkin seeds on the side.

 
Candied pumpkin seeds
Ingredients
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Generous pinch each of ground cinnamon, paprika, and cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt
Instructions
1. Toast the cumin seeds in a small pan over medium heat two to three minutes, until they release their aroma and are lightly browned. Pound them coarsely in a mortar.
2. Melt the butter in a cumin pan over medium heat. Add the pumpkin seeds and sugar, and then sprinkle the spices and a healthy pinch of salt over them. Toss the pumpkin seeds to coat them well with the butter, and cook a few minutes, until they just begin to pop and color slightly. 
3. Turn off the heat, and wait 30 seconds. Add the honey, tossing well to coat the pumpkin seeds. Spread on a plate and let them cool.

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