Pumpkin Soup

October 31, 2013

pumpkin soup/gratin makes a great fall dinner (or appetizer with friends!)

By Raleigh-Elizabeth.

Supper is our favorite Halloween tradition. That’s really saying something, since we’re the crafty sort of people who start making our costumes before summer is even over and have been planning our son’s first Halloween costume since before he was even born. (We’re doing a Jurassic Park theme this year, and he’s a baby dinosaur. I’ve been working hard on his baby triceratops costume for awhile, and I think it’s come together pretty well! I just hope I finish before tomorrow.)

We love the whole trick-or-treating concept (and trunk-or-treating, our church’s version) and being neighborly with friends while watching the little ones have too much fun, too late at night, and with too much candy. We enjoy all of these things, but we don’t like them nearly as much as we love Halloween supper. And that’s because on Halloween, we eat our supper straight out of a pumpkin.

This annual feast began a few years ago, back when I lived in New York and my husband, Bill, made the trek up to see me from Marine Corps Base Quantico as often as possible. No matter what, he made it for Halloween. Halloween in New York is unlike Halloween anywhere else and worth experiencing like a local at least once in your life. The whole city seems to celebrate it, and watching children file in and out of all the neighborhood stores on Broadway only heightens the communal enthusiasm.

As a childless adult living in a building that was as childless too, I had to look for Halloween goodness elsewhere. I found it in Ruth Reichl’s pumpkin soup. It’s really more like a gratin: Cheesy, bready, pumpkiny deliciousness baked and presented rather gloriously in the gourd itself.

Ruth’s original recipe calls for heavy cream, toasted baguette, and a good swiss to be layered together in a hallowed-out pumpkin and baked for two hours at 300 degrees. After making it the first time, we decided to slightly alter the recipe to ensure we didn’t celebrate our next Halloween in a clogged artery-enduced grave. Now we use chicken broth and whole milk in the place of the cream, and it works like a charm.

The basics are pretty easy: Hollow out a flat-bottomed food pumpkin (an important note, because if you use a Jack-o-Lantern pumpkin, as we once did purely by mistake, it’s not delicious, not at all) and toast up a good baguette. Don’t use whole wheat. I’ve tried it, it doesn’t work as well.

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees and, while the oven warms up, layer the toast and cheese inside the pumpkin. Fill it all the way up to the top. There is no such thing as too much cheese! Or toast! Or cheesy pumpkin toast!

Now for the liquid, you can do as Ruth does and go for the heavy cream, or you can substitute as you see fit. We’ve found about a cup and a half of liquid does the job for one small pumpkin, and we use an even split between milk and chicken stock. Add a little salt, pepper, and nutmeg to the mix, and pour it over the cheese and bread.

Put the lid on the pumpkin and gently brush the pumpkin with a little oil. It helps it stay pretty when it bakes.

As for cheeses, we do a mix of Emmental and Gruyer with a little brie layered in for fun, which gives it a rich, creamy depth the heavy cream never did. As you scoop the soup/gratin out, you pull the pumpkin flesh with it, and the whole thing is just sumptuous. We serve it with crispy fried sage and, when I really have my act together, candied bacon.

An equally delicious and more savory variation would be to use blue cheese in the place of brie and sourdough instead of baguette, and I can’t help thinking that the crunch of pepitas would add a welcomed fanfare on top or maybe some pistachios.

While we largely pass up the candy at this point (except Swedish Fish and Mike and Ikes, which I consume in quantities that would make my dentist squirm), this pumpkin feast is one we look forward to every year as our big treat on Halloween. As much as Jack-o-Lanterns on our front porch and welcoming the neighbors’ kids in costume, our meal-in-a-pumpkin has come to mark Halloween for us. It’s an ooey, gooey ode to fall, and one I can’t wait to dig into tonight.

Tell me: What do you fix for dinner on Halloween night? Do you have anything special planned tonight?

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Just Moms » Blog Archive » Pumpkin Soup
October 31, 2013 at 12:51 pm

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jess. October 31, 2013 at 10:28 am

So, you’re telling me I’m supposed to rush home from work, get everyone into their costumes and out the door at a decent hour, parade them around the neighborhood, receiving and consuming All The Candy In The World . . . AND I’m supposed to make them dinner? Maybe next year, I’ll be awesome like you. Tonight, we’ll probably have hot dogs. From a street vendor. xox

p.s. This looks amazing. Thanks.


2 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 31, 2013 at 10:33 am

Ha no, I bow down at your feet! I don’t have to do any of those things! We have one child – and he’s four MONTHS old. We’re on a really different schedule : ) This is actually really low-fuss though, so on a night you want something toasty and warm, it’s a great thing to turn to. Especially since it involves about ten minutes of hands-on prep time and then a really, really good result.
I’ll confess a family secret: I think I had Wendy’s more Halloweens than I can count growing up, all vegetables consumed this day were optional. (Sorry, Mama.)


3 Jess. November 7, 2013 at 10:06 am

We picked up two gorgeous cheese pumpkins last weekend. Currently, they are serving as Autumn decor to impress our house guests, but when it is time to eat them, we will definitely be making this. Can’t wait!

And, yeah, my kids had candy for dinner on Halloween. That is all. You win some, you lose some.


4 Becca October 31, 2013 at 10:33 am

Cute tradition!


5 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 31, 2013 at 10:33 am

And yummy!


6 Amy3 October 31, 2013 at 10:45 am

This looks crazy delicious and sounds doable. As Jess said, I don’t think it’s realistic for me for Halloween, but it would be a fun fall meal on a more relaxed evening. Thanks!


7 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm

It’s a great Sunday dish, truly. Warm, cozy… and easy to do while everyone does their Sunday thing!


8 rOBIN October 31, 2013 at 11:46 am

I’m thinking a great side for a vegetarian thanks giving… with a few substitutions.


9 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm



10 Elizabeth October 31, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Thanks for this, looks delish. I’m just wondering how you can tell the difference between a food grade pumpkin and jack o’lantern on


11 Raleigh-Elizabeth October 31, 2013 at 1:31 pm

A Jack pumpkin is the kind you usually find outside at the grocery store/target/hardware store. They’re large, and their flesh is too stringy to cook (and it tastes kind of sour). A food pumpkin is usually labeled “pie pumpkin” or “sugar pumpkin” and they’re much smaller, with dark orange flesh. Ask your produce people at the grocery store – they’ll point you in the right direction!


12 Rebecca November 1, 2013 at 3:44 am

Sounds lovely! I might try this in our Australian autumn, maybe in May. It’s already too hot to think of eating roasted pumpkin!
I love traditions that involve food :)


13 Ann November 1, 2013 at 9:55 am

As we were carving pumpkins Thursday, my son was suggesting we make all of this stuff out of pumpkins, soup, bread, muffins…! He even suggested the soup inside the pumpkin. I asked him if he would try the soup if I made it, and he replied, “No.”
Well, I had my answer! I’m putting it in chili!


14 Jessica November 1, 2013 at 11:28 am

Every year for Halloween I make a giant pot or two of ghoul-osh (aka goulash), and we invite some of our friends over for a post trick-or-treating supper. We provide the ghoul-osh and guests provide bottles of grape blood (aka wine and juice). The kids bring their pjs and get changed out of their costumes and we all warm up and have fun after being out among the ghouls.

The best part of this tradition: the ghoul-osh can be made in the crockpot or a couple of days ahead of time, so dinner is always ready the minute we return home from trick-or-treating! It helps prevent old and young alike from immediately binging on candy because we’re starving and waiting for food to appear on the table.


15 Dale Coykendall November 1, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Oh I wish I had seen this in time. We have such a nice tradition in our little town ..we gather at a friend’s for a wonderful potluck, half the parents take the little guys out and the rest hang in to greet trick or treaters . Saving for next year (or as one suggested Thanksgiving. Looks much simpler than a recipe I just got in from epicurious that looked very time consuming


16 Jennifer November 2, 2013 at 7:33 pm

Raleigh-Elizabeth, thank you. I threw this together this morning and put it in the oven to bake while the turkey was cooking (we do our Thanksgiving with friends early in November). It was so easy, and it was a total show stopper. We served it surrounded by little toasts on a big platter, and it was a huge hit. I am betting this one will make quite a few appearances around here in a couple of weeks, when all of our friends have Thanksgiving with their families. So terrific.


17 Koala November 4, 2013 at 6:47 am

Now this post made me so hungry, I gotta go and check out the buffet here :)


18 Punkin-pie November 5, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Well, punkin-pie, looks like there’s a new plan for not only Halloween, but also Thanksgiving. We’ll be getting our pumkin fix straight from its own bowl.

Thanks for a great, great recipe and new tradition.


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