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Kabocha Soup with Pancetta and Herbs
(The above garnish can be done hours ahead, wrapping all, and refrigerating the herbs.)
Add olive oil to a large soup pot on medium-high heat and add the onion, stirring occasionally. Cook until slightly golden, season with a little salt and sugar. Add the squash, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf to the pot.
Add stock and water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Puree in a blender until smooth, add water or stock to desired consistency. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice if needed.
Garnish in the bowls: Whipped crème frâiche in the center, topped with some herb salad. Surround this with the gingersnap crumbs and pancetta chips. (The garnished bowls can be done ahead, and placed on the table for a beautiful presentation.)
To serve, pour the warm soup on top of the pancetta and have them sit down to a fantastic and beautiful holiday-season first course.