Recipe by Chef Martin Woesle, executive chef, Mille Fleurs.
I grew up on a dairy farm, and my mom cooked every day for our family of six. We only went out to eat for very special occasions — first communions, baptisms, weddings, funerals. Otherwise, my mom made a big main meal at lunch. Always, every day, she made fresh soup from what was around. At night we would eat leftovers and cheese. Bread and fruit. All she did was take care of the farm and the family. She even made her own bread. It’s great memories of how things used to be.
I’ve been a chef at Mille Fleurs since 1985, about half of my life. I started cooking when I was 20 and did three years’ apprenticeship and trained under French chefs in Germany. At age 24 I did the highest degree of cooking in Germany. Then I worked in Switzerland until I was offered a job in the states.
For me, it was always very normal to use what grows around you and what’s in season. It was a natural thing to do, and then I came to the U.S. and found it’s so easy to get things shipped from all over the world. Whatever you want, you can get shipped in a day or so. But I kind of stayed with my idea to use the local stuff because it’s the best. You can get it all in half a day. First thing in the morning, I go down the road to Chino Farms to get fresh vegetables. Back in the ’80s and ’90s I was the only chef in town who did that on a daily basis. Very rarely anyone else came by. Now everyone wants Chino’s vegetables, but for me, it’s nothing new.
In the past, Mille Fleurs was closed for Thanksgiving but now that we stay open, it’s one of the busiest days of the year. Lots of people who don’t have family or who travel come in. People are just going out more, and I think that Thanksgiving is a tradition that is getting lost. I think that for people who don’t cook all year, Thanksgiving is the one day they should do that.
At my home, we do the traditional turkey, but my favorite part is making the stuffing. I put it together myself. Each year it changes a little — what I put in — but everyone always loves it. I put in whatever I have in my kitchen. I put in dried apples and apricots, raisins, celery, bread cut into pieces. Of course I use lots of herbs and sage. I also put in the liver of the turkey and the heart. It gives it some nice flavor. For our holiday we do a dinner with the family and the kids. We just celebrate as much as we can.
Serves 8 first-course or 4 entrée servings
3 pounds fresh butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium onion)
1 tablespoon diced garlic
2 tablespoon peeled and diced fresh ginger
1/2 cup flour
6 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
1/2 cup cream
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh-cut chives
2 teaspoons pumpkin-seed oil
2 tablespoons heavy cream, lightly whipped
1/2 a day-old baguette
4-6 tablespoons butter, melted
cinnamon, to taste
salt, to taste
HOW TO DO IT
Cut the butternut squash into one-inch chunks, being sure to remove the skin. Heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat and cook the onions until soft, stirring often, being careful not to burn the butter. Add the garlic, the fresh ginger, and the butternut squash. Dust with flour and mix well. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the soup until the butternut squash is very soft (about 20 minutes). Add the cream and nutmeg, and bring the soup again to a boil for one minute. Puree the soup in a blender (blend in batches so it doesn’t overflow) or use an immersion blender.
To make the cinnamon croutons, preheat the oven to 350º and cut the baguette in 1/4-inch size cubes and toss them in melted butter until coated. Arrange the cubed bread on a cookie sheet and place in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and dust the croutons with cinnamon and sprinkle with salt.
Serve the soup in warm cups or bowls and decorate with chives, pumpkin-seed oil, and swirls of lightly whipped cream. Serve the fresh warm cinnamon croutons on the side.