methods & madness…

class 3: soup’s on!

Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Pesto


Recipes & Ramblings from Chef School

It was “all hands on deck” this week as we made six soups in less than four hours. The secret to soup is fresh ingredients and a good stock. Oh yes, and a couple of spare hours, to say the least.

Soups are classified in two main groups with no fancy-schmancy French name (hence we will bypass our French lesson this week). You can practice the French you learned last week. And I don’t mean the “pardon my French” you already know.

1. Clear

  • Broth – a flavorful liquid obtained from the long simmering of meats and/or vegetables
  • Consommé – French for “soup,” also used to describe a clear soup made from well-seasoned stock

2. Thick

  • Cream – based on béchamel (classic white sauce) and then finished with heavy cream
  • Chowder – classically made of seafood, including pork, potatoes and onions Today, it is a generic name for a wide variety of seafood and/or vegetable-thickened soups, often with milk and/or cream.
  • Puree – thicker than cream soups, often based on dried legumes or starchy vegetables
  • Bisque – a thick, creamy, highly seasoned soup, classically of pureed crustaceans

My partner for the evening was Mario; our assignment, consommé. How exotic… how French… how complicated, or so I thought. I looked at the list of ingredients and wondered how ground meat, vegetables, stock, tomato paste, and egg whites were going to produce a clear soup.

Grinding meatHumble Beginnings…

First up – grind the chicken and beef. Oh dear… my childhood farm pets’ faces flashed before me, and I’ve hated ground meat ever since. Pink Floyd’s movie, The Wall, didn’t help either! But now I’m paying for chef school, so it’s time to “get over it”.

The nice part about grinding your own meat is ensuring no “extras” end up in it. (can anybody say “chicken lips”)

I humbly grounded the beef and chicken. The only byproduct in this meat was my emotional state.

Next step – we chopped our mirepoix (carrots, onion & celery). We then added it to our meat and egg whites and placed the mixture in a large pot with cold stock.

mirepoixWe were then instructed to walk away and let the miracle of science take over. I think one reason we like to cook is because it puts us in control of cause and effect. Consommé (like most people in our lives) refuses comply. We are sure they need our help to become great.

I pondered these thoughts as I busied myself elsewhere. Upon returning to the pot an hour later, I was shocked to discover somebody threw up in our soup! I knew it, we should not have taken our hands off the wheel!

consommé cookingGuess what? I was wrong again.

cathy choppingThe ingredients we originally termed “fresh” are now “impurities” that rose to the top and formed a floating ugly mass referred to as a “raft”. Had we stirred it, the congealing process could not occur, and there would be no clear soup.

The raft was lifted out, and the remaining consommé strained.

Carrots, celery and leeks were julienned and par-boiled to garnish the consommé.

We served to consommé to the class with rave reviews. The real reward was tasting the essence of every ingredient that went into this soup.

consommeIn some culinary schools, a simple test is administered to student chefs making consommé: the teacher drops a dime into your amber broth; if you can read the date on the dime resting at the bottom of the bowl, you pass. If you can’t, you fail. I am not sure we would have passed that test, but according to the students, it made the grade.

To see a video on how to make consommé click here.

she paused 4 thought line break

Homework Assignment:

My homework this week was to make a soup that I didn’t make in class.  I chose the rustic Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Soup with Pumpkin Seed Pesto. It seemed perfect for Halloween.

Rona made the Dungeness Crab Bisque, and you can get the recipe on her blog.


Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Soup w/Pumpkin Seed Pesto

From New School of Cooking
Serves 6


  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery rib, diced
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded
  • 2 lbs. butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 6-8 cups water, plus more as needed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Sauté the onion in the olive oil until soft.  Add the carrot and celery, cook an additional two minutes. Add jalapeno, sweet potato, squash, water and bay leaf.  Simmer for about 45 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.
  • Puree. Add more water if mixture seems too thick.  Season with salt and pepper.

Pumpkin Seed Pesto


  • 1 c unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/2 c coarse, chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 2 T lime juice, or to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • In a heavy skillet, roast the pumpkin seeds until they begin to pop. Some will brown, but do not allow all to turn brown. Remove the seeds to a plate and allow to cool completely. Heat the olive oil in the same skillet and cook the garlic until it begins to give off it’s characteristic aroma.
  • Pulse the seeds, garlic, olive oil, water, cilantro, scallions and salt and pepper to taste in a blender until the mixture forms a coarse paste, not smooth.
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lime juice. Taste and adjust lime and salt quantities if necessary.
  • When the soup is ready, add in a dollop of the pesto. Garnish with cilantro if you like.

Lesson learned:

Beautiful things do happen when left on their own.
Know when to be involved and when to keep your mitts out!
…and then, she paused for thought

Hope you have enjoyed our adventure in the culinary classroom. Join Rona and me each week as we continue learning new culinary skills.

You can also read about Rona’s experience on her blog or What’s Cookin online magazine.

About Cathy Arkle

Cathy Arkle is a food blogger, culinary explorer, graphic artist, and cooking class junkie. Her inspirations come from her travels across the globe (50 countries) in the last 20+ years partaking in various ethnic cuisines while working as a graphic artist for major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX & ESPN). She has collected a few Emmys in the field of graphic design for sports & entertainment. Cathy is also a graduate of the Pro Chef courses at The New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA

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23 Responses to methods & madness…

class 3: soup’s on!

  1. Carolyn October 27, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    Both soups sound and look delicious. I wish yoou could zap some of those soups into a pot in my kitchen. You could have the fun of making them and we could have the fun of eating them.

  2. Cousin Julie October 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm #

    Yum Cathy! Sweet Potato Butternut Soup looks awesome and delicious! I now understand for the first time in my life the difference between broth and consomme’! (Unfortunately my year of college French didn’t yield any culinary knowledge) I watched the demo video – very fascinating! The new cooking experiment at our house this week was Pumpkin Cornbread, and it turned out delish and added Autumnal bliss to our chili for dinner. (I will send you the recipe) Also made from scratch a Black Forrest Cake for hubby’s birthday and the kids helped that magically disappear! Love you!

    • cathyarkle October 31, 2011 at 11:24 am #

      Thanks Julie. I can’t wait to try the Pumpkin Cornbread. I aspire to cook as good as you someday.

  3. Brian Rood October 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    What happened to the butternut squash? And Cathy, its “Join Rona and ME each week.”

    • cathyarkle October 31, 2011 at 11:22 am #

      Thanks for the correction Brian. I appreciate it.
      I think the butternut squash was thrown out the window with my grammar this week. I have updated the recipe with 2 lbs. of butternut squash.

  4. mary boyton October 28, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    how much butternut squash please…not listed in the ingredients.
    Sounds delicious

    • cathyarkle October 31, 2011 at 11:19 am #

      Thanks Mary. Sorry if this caused any inconvenience.
      2 lbs of butternut squash. The recipe has been updated.

  5. Lucy Molaro October 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    In the Sweet Potato Butternut Squash Soup, how much squash did you use?? I don’t see it in the ingredients.

    • cathyarkle October 31, 2011 at 11:17 am #

      Hi Lucy,
      So sorry about that, I have updated the recipe with 2 lbs of butternut squash.

  6. judi October 29, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    You did not list how much squash goes into this recipe.

    • cathyarkle October 31, 2011 at 11:16 am #

      So sorry Judy. The correct amount is 2 lbs squash. The recipe has been updated. Thanks!

  7. LARRY BEHANNA October 29, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Your recipe for the butternut soup lacks nthe quanity of butternut squash that is requiredI know that sometimes cooks will hold back a secret ingredient that keeps the result from being not quite as good as it should be, but this is extreme. Ha, Ha.

    • cathyarkle October 31, 2011 at 11:15 am #

      You are too funny. It was my mistake, so sorry about that.
      I have updated the recipe above. This missing ingredient is 2 lbs of butternut squash.

  8. jamie October 29, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    I do not see any butternut squash in the ingredients for the soup recipe

    • cathyarkle October 31, 2011 at 11:14 am #

      Hi Jamie, So sorry about the mistake. I updated the recipe above with 2 lbs of butternut squash.

  9. Birgit October 29, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Dear Cathy,
    Thanks for posting the sweet potato butternut squash soup recipe! Could you let me know how much squash is needed for this recipe? Cheers, Birgit.

    • cathyarkle October 31, 2011 at 11:14 am #

      Thanks Birgit! So sorry about the mistake. I updated the recipe with 2 lbs of butternut squash.

  10. andy comins October 29, 2011 at 3:04 pm #

    Great meeting you Sat. at JDPW.

  11. Beth Kiernan October 30, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    how much butternut squash in soup recipe?!!

    • cathyarkle October 31, 2011 at 11:27 am #

      Hi Beth,
      Sorry for the confusion. 2 lbs of butternut squash. The recipe has been updated.

  12. cathyarkle October 31, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    So sorry everyone. I updated the recipe with 2lbs of butternut squash.

  13. Nan November 3, 2011 at 1:04 pm #

    Once again, loved the blog. And I learned something.
    I also really liked your philosophy… “Beautiful things do happen when left on their own. Know when to be involved and when to keep your mitts out!”

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