Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil

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I’m actually not a soup person, no matter what time of year it is. But I was highly intrigued by this recipe in Eric Ripert’s cookbook, A Return to Cooking. Interestingly enough, the other recipe I’ve blogged about from the same cookbook was an outstanding seafood chowder.


Chef Ripert’s name for this soup is Pumpkin, Acorn, and Butternut Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil. I like the idea of mixing the squashes, and then nutmeg and walnut oil as finishing touches?! Yes please.

Here is the cookbook, published in 2009.

From the author, Michael Ruhlman, regarding this recipe: “Eric almost didn’t make this soup because he’s so put off by overspiced squash soups. While he does add some gratings of fresh nutmeg at the end, the fresh thyme and the walnut oil are the primary seasonings, and the soup retains the flavors of the squash.”

Pumpkin, Acorn, and Butternut Squash Soup with Nutmeg and Walnut Oil
Printable recipe below

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup sliced onions
2 cups peeled and diced sugar pumpkin
2 cups peeled and diced acorn squash
2 cups peeled and diced butternut squash
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
3 thyme sprigs
3 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 whole nutmeg, for grating

Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin, acorn and butternut squash dice and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cover with the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Cook until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

Purée the soup in batches in a blender until satiny-smooth. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any remaining lumps, and return the soup to the pot. Add the cream and the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Bring to a simmer.

Wrap the thyme sprigs in a square of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. Add to the simmering soup and let infuse for 10 minutes. Remove the thyme bundle and adjust the seasoning.

To serve, divide the soup among six warmed soup bowls. Shave the cheese over each bowl and drizzle the walnut oil over the cheese.

Grate nutmeg over each bowl to taste and serve immediately.

The walnut oil I purchased in August of 2021 and opened in October to make this recipe was rancid. The bottle was sealed, so I was surprised and disappointed. I don’t recommend this brand.

 

 

Eric Ripert’s Seafood Chowder

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The New York City restaurant, Le Bernardin, a seafood restaurant, is constantly on top of the world’s ten best restaurant lists. In May of 2021, the chef-owner Eric Ripert was proud to advertise his long-standing 3 Michelin star rating.

In 2010, when my daughter went to New York City for an interview, I volunteered to meet her there. Of course, I made reservations at some great restaurants, including Le Bernardin. I’m a good mom like that!

This is a photograph of the dining room, from the restaurant’s website. In person, that painting seemed like it was 100 feet wide!

We had the most helpful sommelier while we dined at Le Bernardin. It could have been because my daughter was 24 and gorgeous…

In any case, our meal was exceptional, not surprisingly. If you’ve watched or read anything about Eric Ripert, you are aware that he’s a perfectionist.

In 2009 I purchased his just published cookbook, “A Return to Cooking,” about Eric Ripert and his culinary passion and skills, written by Michael Ruhlman.

As an homage to Eric Ripert’s love and respect of seafood, I chose a seafood chowder to make from the cookbook. It was excellent, and could easily be enjoyed during warm months. The hardest part was cracking crab legs for the meat, but so worth it.

Salmon, Crab, and Scallop Chowder
Printable recipe below
Serves 6

2 slices double-smoked bacon, sliced crosswise into julienne
3/4 cup sliced leeks
1/2 cup dry wine
3 cups fish fumet*
1 cup water
1 pound baby Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and halved
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon canola oil
One – 6 ounce salmon fillet, cut into 3/4” cubes
4 ounces crab meat, picked over for shells and cartilage
6 large sea scallops, cut horizontally in half
1 tablespoon chopped dill
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Cook the bacon julienne in a large pot over medium heat, until it has rendered its fat and is crisp. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot. Add the leeks and sauté until limp and lightly caramelized, about 4 minutes.

Deglaze the pot with the white wine, stirring to incorporate the browned bits in the bottom of the pot. Return the bacon to the pot, cover with the fumet and water, and bring to a simmer. Add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat and boil gently until the potatoes are tender, 10 – 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Add the cream to the fumet and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat until ready to serve.

Line a baking sheet with parchment and brush it with the canola oil. Place the salmon, crab, and scallops on the sheet and season on both sides with salt and pepper.
Place in the oven for 2 – 3 minutes, until just barely heated through. The salmon and scallops should still be quite rare.

Meanwhile, gently reheat the soup. Add the dill and lemon zest and stir to incorporate. Adjust the seasoning.

To serve, divide the warmed salmon, crab, and scallops among warmed bowls. (This is so French – my mother always heated dishes before serving!)

Ladle the soup over and serve immediately.

* From the notes of Michael Ruhlman: Fumet is very easy to make once you have good bones. The bones of the turbot are the best for fumet because of their high gelatin content, but generally any white bones from a non oily fish can be used. To make a fumet, you sweat sliced onion and fennel until they’re tender, add the bones and cook them gently, then add water to just cover and a bouquet garni and simmer very gently for 10 – 15 minutes. Let the fumet sit off the heat for another 15 minutes, then strain it through cheesecloth.

This is what I used, purchased at Amazon, of course. It was delicious; all you have to do is add it to water just like a demi-glace.

 

Chicken Paillard

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Avec Eric is a PBS TV show in the United States. It features the Eric Ripert, co-owner and executive chef of Le Bernardin in NYC – still one of the most highly rated restaurants in NYC.

The show involves a visit to a part of the world, talking to fishermen or farmers or chefs. From his travels he gains inspiration and the shows end with Mr. Ripert preparing a dish influenced by what he saw, tasted, and learned.

Sometimes, for me, he is hard to understand because of his pretty heavy French accent. I shouldn’t really comment because my French is terrible, and at least Mr. Ripert is bi-lingual. But what really comes across in Avec Eric is his love of all things food and wine, and his perfectionism. And he seems like a really nice man.

What does make me laugh is that he’s best friends with Anthony Bourdain. Can you imagine a more opposite pairing of people?!!!

In any case, the recipe I’m posting today is based on one I saw Mr. Ripert make at the end of his show, after he visited Chianti, Italy, to witness olive oil production.

The recipe has many ingredients, and I’ve even left a few out. But the flavors and textures are fantastic.

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Chicken Paillard
Based on Eric Ripert’s recipe, to serve 1

2 tablespoons white raisins
2 tablespoons vincotto
2-3 small ripe tomatoes
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
Sliced green olives
Capers
Olive oil
1 breast chicken
Salt, pepper
Dried thyme
Pine nuts
Chiffonade of basil
Lemon

Soak the raisins in the vincotto, warmed slightly, and set aside.

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Set the oven on 450 degrees.

De-seed and finally chop the tomatoes and place in a small bowl. Add the shallot and garlic, and olives and capers according to your taste. Season with salt and pepper, stir well, and set aside.

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Pour a little olive oil in a small baking dish.

Slice the chicken breast horizontally, without cutting all the way through, so as to butterfly it. Place it in the baking dish and season with salt and pepper.

Add the raisins and vincotto to the tomato mixture along with a little dried thyme.

Stir well, then spoon the mixture on top of the chicken.

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Sprinkle on a few pine nuts and drizzle with a little olive oil.

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Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then turn off the oven but keep the skillet in the oven 5 more minutes.

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Immediately place the paillard on a plate. Drizzle the liquid from the baking dish over the chicken.

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But we’re not done yet. Sprinkle on the basil and add a squeeze of lemon, and then serve!

Cooked this way, the tomato mixture caramelizes with the high heat, but the chicken remains moist.

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Because it’s still summer where I live and I was able to use wonderfully ripe tomatoes, I celebrated this dish along with rosé.

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This recipe can be doubled or quadrupled.