There are a few reasons I sometimes wish I lived in France. Free preschool. Good cheese. Better wine. Lots of vacation. High environmental standards. And last but not least, liberal use of shallots.
There is currently a big debate going on between the French and the Dutch about the merits of their respective shallots. I'm not going to get into that. I think around here we could use more shallots of any kind, and so I'm going to do my part, even if I'm propagating the Dutch yellow kind.
I got the sets from Peter Groves at the Orleans Farmers' Market. He thinks they're better than the reds and grays because they last longer. Once they're dried and trimmed they'll keep all winter in a mesh bag in the basement; other types rot by December. He also likes the taste—milder than an onion, more nuanced. Maybe sweeter.
I can't say I've tried enough varieties to judge. But I can tell you that I prefer shallots to onions in most soups, all salad dressings, and any kind of mayonnaise-based salad. And in this soup in particular. It's got Hubbard squash, coconut milk, chicken broth, corn, and a few pinches of ginger and cayenne pepper. It's sweet and mellow with a little kick, and it's a good way to celebrate the last sweet corn of the season.
On October 14th, I'll start planting shallots. Peter says that's the time. I saved some seeds from the Hubbard squash for the spring, and maybe, just maybe, we'll make a homegrown version of this soup next year.
HUBBARD SQUASH AND SHALLOT SOUP WITH COCONUT MILK, CILANTRO, AND CORN
I am a big fan of Hubbard squash. They're easier to peel and clean than most squash, and you get a big yield. They're similar to a butternut in flavor, and they go perfectly with coconut milk.
2 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped
8 cups peeled Hubbard squash cut into 1-inch dice
2 cups chicken stock
1 fifteen-ounce can coconut milk
kernels from one ear of corn
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 bunch cilantro
sea salt to taste
Warm up the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté, stirring often, until tender. Add the squash, sauté a few minutes more, then pour in the chicken stock and coconut milk. Cover, bring everything to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until the squash is tender, about 10-15 minutes.
Puree the soup in a blender or using an immersion blender, then transfer it back to the pot.
Turn the heat onto low, add the corn, cayenne pepper, and ginger and simmer. Remove the leaves from the cilantro and set aside the stems. Chop the stems into 1/8 inch pieces; add these to the soup. Season with sea salt to taste; serve hot with cilantro leaves on top.