Monday, October 3, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Holy moly, y'all, it's October!  That means in the next week or week and a half, I should have a wee little nephew...!

We had a little cool spell here in SC, and it's been glorious.  It's going to be warmer this week but not as warm as it has been.  And the nights are getting chilly too, so I can make warm comfort food for dinner.

Confession:  I'd never had butternut squash before I made this soup.  I've eyed it in the grocery store and seen dozens of recipes for various raviolis, soups, etc.  You see, I used to be quite the picky eater when I was little.  And it's been in the past few years that I've really branched out and tried things that I previously would've avoided.  So.  Butternut squash soup.

I was sort of flying by the seat of my pants with this one.  I didn't take an ingredients shot like usual because I wasn't certain of everything I was going to use at the time.  I will explain in detail how everything came about, and I promise the result is delicious.
It all starts with the humble butternut squash.  The skin is easily peeled with a vegetable peeler.  Make sure you have a sharp knife though to cut it in half.
Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  I think a grapefruit spoon would be excellent for this job.
Slice each half into about 1-inch chunks.  Put them in a roasting pan and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast in a 400º oven for about 20 minutes.
Now we need to chop half an onion and two cloves of garlic.  We'll be blending the garlic and onions later, so there's no need to chop it too fine.  In fact, I like the garlic to be sliced so it doesn't burn.
In a large soup pot, melt two tablespoons of butter until it's just browned, which shouldn't take long at all over medium heat. Toss in the onions and garlic and cook until translucent and just getting a little color.
When your squash is done roasting, toss it in the pot with the onions and garlic.  In fact, throw in some roughly chopped sage leaves.  You could use dried, but I used 3 or 4 fresh leaves.  Let them all get friendly for a few minutes, about 10 should do just fine.
Add about 3-4 cups of chicken broth and let it warm up with the squash.  When it's warmed through, put a couple of ladlefuls of the squash and broth in a blender.  We have to do this in batches because it'll explode if there's too much hot stuff in the blender.  I'm pretty sure I used the puree setting half the time and the liquefy setting the other half.  I wanted a smoother soup, but feel free to use a different setting if you like a chunkier soup.
Eventually the soup will reach this consistency.  It's thick but relatively smooth.  It took a bit of time to puree each batch, stir it in, puree again, etc until it got to this point.  An immersion blender would cut down on a lot of the time, and you wouldn't have to dirty up your blender.  This is the time to add some spices.  I used a little nutmeg, ground ginger, and more black pepper.
Add in more chicken broth until it reaches the consistency you want.  This is pourable with a good amount of body to it.  It's not a thin soup by any means, but it didn't feel like I was eating a dip with a spoon, y'know?  Check the salt level after you add the broth.  I thought it was fine and didn't add any more, but trust your instincts.  Let it simmer a bit, like 15 minutes or so.
I kind of fried some sage and kind of really liked it.  I mean, it's the easiest thing in the world.  Heat a bit of oil and toss in a few sage leaves.  They fry up in no time and only need a minute on a paper towel to drain and crisp up.
I highly recommend a little creme fraiche or sour cream to add some tang, and the sage leaves add a bit of crunch.  I admit, the leaves are not at all necessary, I just think it's a fun touch.
If you're into more heat, Crystal hot sauce is my favorite.  I had some on my leftover soup for lunch the next day.  I like the heat it adds and the flavor.  I prefer it over Texas Pete and Tabasco.

Things I learned when making this soup:

  • I should wear a bib when I eat soup.  I never fail to spill some on me.
  • Liquid is your best friend when you use the blender.  A hand towel comes in a close second.
  • I'm a fan of butternut squash.  
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup (serves at least 6)

1 butternut squash, peeled and sliced into 1-inch chunks
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tbs butter
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3-4 sage leaves, plus more for frying
5-6 c chicken broth (vegetable may be substituted)
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Canola oil for frying
Creme fraiche or sour cream for garnish

  • Toss the squash chunks with olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in a 400º oven for 20 minutes or until soft.  Use a roasting pan or baking dish.
  • Melt butter in a soup pot until just browned.  Add onions and garlic and cook until just getting a little color.
  • Add roasted squash and sage leaves (may be roughly chopped but not necessary).  Cook for 8-10 minutes and add 3-4 cups of the chicken broth.  Heat until warmed through.  Puree soup in a blender in batches.  Hold a hand towel over the blender top just in case.  An immersion blender would make this job 1000x easier and prevent a bit of mess.
  • When soup is blended to desired consistency, add ginger, nutmeg, and pepper to taste.  Add the rest of the chicken broth 1/2 c at a time to reach desired thickness.  Simmer 15-20 minutes.
  • For fried sage leaves, heat 1/2 inch of canola oil to 350º.  Add sage leaves and fry until just brown.  Drain on a paper towel.
  • Serve soup warm with a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream in the center with sage leaves.  

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