We’ve had a pretty exciting week here in the Upper Valley. First came last Thursday’s torrential rains that caused rivers to crest, driveways to wash out and dams to work overtime. Then came the calm after the storm: a sunny weekend with cool air, glass after glass of tangy apple cider and ridge lines of fluttering yellow leaves all creating an effect so beautiful that it made me want to stay in New England forever. Then came the pumpkins – thousands of them – floating down the Connecticut River.
Did you ever read Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the children’s picture book – now a movie as well – where changes in weather prompt new menu items to come raining down on the town? Well it was kind of like that here. The five inches of rain we received on Thursday and on into Friday flooded the fields of a nearby farm sweeping nearly one hundred thousand pumpkins (yes, 100,000) into the neighboring river. All day Sunday the Connecticut River looked like a gigantic game of bobbing for pumpkins. And on Monday when I picked the kids up from school, we drove the river route home and still saw plenty of pumpkins floating in the river. We laughed at the sight of two kids standing on the muddy bank with hoola hoops lassoing gourds and pulling them ashore to add to their already huge pile. What a carving extravaganza they were about to have!
Or maybe they were planning to make souffle? You know what they say: when the river gives you pumpkins, make pumpkin souffle. That’s what I did. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones who actually retrieved a pumpkin but I was certainly inspired by their sheer abundance and I happened to have some leftover puree in my fridge.
And it was so easy! Don’t let the whole Souffle-Is-Only-Something-Master-Chefs-Make Myth scare you off from trying this fantastic dish. All you need to know is how to separate eggs. This souffle tastes light with just the right hint of herbs and spices and a subtle background note of cheddar cheese. Eating a forkful is one of those things that makes you want to stay -and eat – in New England forever.
Pumpkin Souffle with Rosemary and Cinnamon
The inspiration for this recipe comes from a little gem of a cookbook called A Harvest of Pumpkin and Squash by Lou Seibert Pappas. It’s a great collection to have around come harvest time with recipes ideas for muffins, cheesecakes, pasta and much more. Again, do not be afraid of souffles. You just need to be able to separate those egg yolks and it helps to have a mixer on hand to whip up the whites. The cream of tartar helps with stiffening the whites.
4 eggs, separated, plus 1 additional egg white
3/4 cup pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon salt (you can add more to taste at the table)
1 teaspoon rosemary, minced (or put through a spice mill)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese (sharp or extra sharp add optimal flavor)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a 4-cup souffle dish.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks until lightened in color. Blend in the pumpkin, sour cream, salt, rosemary and spices. Mix in 3/4 cups of the cheese, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup for later use.
Now, in another large bowl, using an electric or a stand mixer on a medium high setting, beat the 5 egg whites until just foamy. Then add the cream of tartar and beat until stiff, shiny peaks form. Fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Then fold the pumpkin mixture into the remaining stiff egg whites.
Spoon mixture into the prepared souffle dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup cheese on the top. Bake until set and golden on top – 25 to 30 minutes.
Serve immediately. And don’t remember to remain humble though you may feel in awe of your culinary prowess (as will those around you)!