When it comes to holiday food in the O’Connell household, they tend to go big. It’s a three or four day process that brings the family together and the kitchen becomes the center of the house.
“Cooking is huge with my family when it comes to holidays. It’s a combination of Louisiana and East Coast Italian traditions,” said Executive Chef Chris O’Connell at Blue Streak at Loews Santa Monica. “Thanksgiving is your standard Holiday fare, while Christmas is a two day event starting with seven different fish dishes on Christmas Eve. On Christmas, we have everything from roast suckling pig, smoked goose, cappelletti in brood di cappone, trifle, the list goes on.”
Among the bounty are a few family favorites including a pumpkin soup that has evolved over a couple of generations.
“Over the years, I’ve tweaked a recipe that my mother-in-law used to serve for Thanksgiving. I just added a few more layers of flavor to an already holiday worthy soup.”
He said the soup is a familiar flavor profile that symbolizes the winter season for many people and that using food to trigger that sense of time is a key part of his holiday experience.
“It’s critical to have seasonality with holiday cooking,” he said. ‘It’s a great feeling of anticipation. Knowing that a favorite dish is coming right around that corner and that it might be the only time you’re going to experience it until next year.”
While his table is packed during the winter months, there’s one edible tradition noticeably absent.
“I’m not a fan of marshmallows on top of yams. It’s a little overkill for me. Save your sweet tooth for the pies,” he said.
Blue Streak is offering several options for helping home cooks this season.
Guests are invited to celebrate Thanksgiving by the beach with a festive dinner at Blue Streak Restaurant. A family style menu of traditional turkey Thanksgiving dinner will be served, alongside all of the fixings. The menu is offered at $89 per adult and $35 per child 10 and under. Seating times are 3, 5, and 7 p.m. Discounted valet parking is available.
The restaurant is also offering a la carte to go options including starters, entrees, sides, and desert. (https://www.loewshotels.com/santa-monica/dining)
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
One 4-pound sugar pie pumpkin
1 medium butternut squash , peeled seeded and diced large
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 Leek white part only chopped
1 large peeled carrot rough chop
4 large or 6 medium garlic cloves, pressed or minced
½ teaspoon diced fresh ginger
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1 star anise, 5 black peppercorn, 1 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme
½ cup heavy cream : Can sub with full fat coconut
1 ½ tablespoons honey: Can sub with Maple Syrup
¼ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Carefully halve the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds. Feel free to roast the seeds as a snack for later.
Slice each pumpkin halve in half to make quarters. Brush or rub 1 tablespoon olive oil over the flesh of the pumpkin and place the quarters, cut sides down, onto the baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes or longer, until the orange flesh is easily pierced through with a fork. Set it aside to cool for a few minutes.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add onion, garlic, carrot and leek to the skillet. Stir to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. In the meantime, peel the pumpkin skin off the pumpkins and discard the skin.
Add the pumpkin flesh, diced butternut squash, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, Epaulette pepper , and a few twists of freshly ground black pepper. Use your stirring spoon to break up the pumpkin a bit. Pour in the broth and add the sachet Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the butternut squash and carrots are sift ( about 15 minutes)
While the soup is cooking, toast the pepitas in a medium skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, golden
Once the pumpkin mixture is done cooking, stir in the heavy cream and honey. Remove the soup from heat and let it cool slightly. You can use an immersion blender to blend this soup in the pot. I prefer to use my stand blender, which yields the creamiest results—working in batches, transfer the contents of the pan to a blender (do not fill your blender past the maximum fill line!). Securely fasten the blender’s lid and use a kitchen towel to protect your hand from steam escaping from the top of the blender as you purée the mixture until smooth. Transfer the puréed soup to a serving bowl and repeat with the remaining batches.
Taste and adjust if necessary. ( More cream if you want it thinner)
Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Sprinkle pepitas over the soup and serve. Let leftover soup cool completely before transferring it to a proper storage container and refrigerating it for up to 4 days (leftovers taste even better the next day!). Or, freeze this soup for up to 3 months.