Scary things in the kitchen |

Scary things in the kitchen

by Brian Shaw
Published Caption: Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

With Halloween just days away, our thoughts turn to scary things and places. Like your own kitchen. According to a study by British Esure Home Insurance, 10 percent of the population of the UK had accidents in the kitchen while trying to copy a celebrity chef.

Topping the list of dangerous practices were fast chopping, deep frying, tenderizing meat, skewering. It stands to reason that anytime you take a knife or mallet in your hands or bring a large quantity of oil up to 350 degrees, the potential for mishap is large.

Found to be most perilous were creme brulees and roasted peppers, both of which we have dealt with in this column. Amazingly, a third of those polled were perfectly willing to use a large scale blow torch in lieu of the smaller culinary tool for caramelizing sugar or blackening chilis.

Most troubling to the insurance company, I’m sure, was the fact that 70 percent of those responding did not keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen. And compounding this fracture in common sense even further, only one in five homes had a TV in their kitchen thus requiring the home cooks to run back and forth to wherever the set was located. Even if they possessed the technology to pause and rewind of say, Tivo, they preferred to cook along in “real time.” Unattended pots and tripping/falling while enroute added injuries to the insult.

Annual price tag for personal and property damage? $9 billion.

Aside from the blender required to puree the squash, our recipe for today shouldn’t pose too many hazards. We’ve selected butternut squash although acorn squash, pumpkin or even yams will work just as well, and are readily available this time of year.

A lot of recipes for pureed vegetable soups are just that ” the vegetable steamed, boiled or roasted then pureed with some aromatics and a little stock to adjust the consistency. Our procedure uses a veloute, which is essentially stock thickened with a little roux (butter and flour). The roasted squash is then added, cooked for a few minutes then pureed.

I think that this helps to stabilize the soup and keep it from seeming clumpy. Also you get a little more mileage out of your vegetables. If flour has been nixed from your diet just leave it out and cut back the butter by about half.

We recently served this dish at a benefit for the Fourth Ward School, which was held at St. Mary’s Art Center here in Virginia City. First built as a hospital, the present day kitchen at St. Mary’s occupies what was originally the operating room. Talk about a kitchen that’s seen some nasty cuts. Have a safe Halloween.

8 big servings.

1 large butternut squash

4 ounces butter

2 medium onions, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

4 ounces flour

6 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Big pinch of nutmeg

2 tablespoon chipotle puree

2 tablespoon honey

1 cup whipping

2 ounces dry sherry

toasted pumpkin seeds and sour cream for garnish

For the squash: Split the squash lengthwise and place on a cookie sheet cut side down. Roast at 350 until very soft ” about one hour. Allow to cool a little then scrape the pulp into a bowl and reserve.

For the chipotle puree: Place a tea strainer over a bowl and empty one can of chipotle chilis in the adobo (the sauce canned with the chilis) into the strainer. Using a rubber spatula or the back of a spoon, force the chilis and adobo through the strainer until only the seeds and skin remain. Scrape the paste from the underside of the screen into the bowl and discard the seeds/skins. Puree will keep covered and refrigerated almost indefinitely.

For the soup: In a large sauce pot (two gallons), saute the onions and garlic in the butter until soft but not browned. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and cook until fragrant. Add the flour and cook for two or three minutes stirring the roux frequently. While stirring add the stock, slowly at first, until all is in. Bring to a simmer then add the squash pulp, chipotle puree and honey. Cook for about 10 minutes then remove from heat.

Using a blender, puree in small batches returning the pureed soup to a clean pot. Don’t be a statistic. Keep a clean towel over the top of the blender when pureeing hot things. Add the cream and dry sherry and warm the soup through. Taste for salt, heat from the chipotle and sweet from the honey. Adjust to taste. If too thick, thin with a little chicken stock.

Serve in warm bowls with a little sour cream and toasted pumpkin seeds.

– Brian Shaw and his wife Ardie own the Cafe del Rio, 394 S. C Street in Virginia City.