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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Farmhouse Butternut Squash Soup

By popular decree, I made the Farmhouse Butternut Squash Soup from the February 2009 issue of Gourmet magazine for dinner last night. Impressions: An uncomplicated but satisfying recipe to follow, resulting in a slightly too-sweet soup that was easily seasoned into something great!

Okay, I should say off the bat that I hate when people commit to testing out a recipe and then make all sorts of random substitutions and complain that they didn't like how it turned out. That said, my grocery store (may they burn in whatever Hell exists for the purposes of tormenting those who set us up to fail) didn't have any butternut squash. I KNOW. But still, I wasn't going to let a little thing like not having the main ingredient stop me! I picked up a couple of butterCUP squash instead, hoping that even though they looked nothing like butternuts externally, maybe on the inside they'd be close enough not to matter.Here they are. A tad lighter than I was hoping, less of that pretty orange glow butternuts get, and they smelled and felt more like pumpkin, but acceptable.

The recipe called for peeling, seeding and chunking the squash, and while seeding is easy, peeling is less so for many kinds of squash. Butternut being the notable exception. Since I had to make do with these suckers, I decided the easiest way to get the flesh out of the skin would be to roast them. I set the oven for 375, brushed the cut sides with olive oil, and turned them face down onto a cookie sheet lined with tin foil.
It took about 45 minutes for them to be tender enough to pierce with a fork.

The next bit was fun--I fried four slices of bacon in the bottom of my beloved heavy Le Creuset soup pot. After laying the crisp bacon on paper towels to drain, I stirred the caraway seeds and chopped garlic into the hot bacon fat and sauteed it until golden. It was at this point that I realized I'd better slow down the cooking process, as I had yet to peel and chop the Granny Smith apple and three carrots. So I dumped in my chicken stock to cool down the garlic mixture, which worked a treat since rather than the low-sodium chicken broth called for in the recipe, I was using the frozen homemade stock I had on hand.
(This, btw, doesn't count as an annoying substitution--homemade chicken stock is always going to be better than canned broth. It just is.) While the stock cubes were melting and keeping the garlic from scorching, I chopped and added the rest of the fruit and veg, including the roasted squash.These additions were intriguing to me, as most butternut squash soup recipes are fairly straightforward and unadorned, relying on the silky texture and rich flavor of the squash alone. The apple and carrot were part of why I wanted to give this recipe a try. A little bay leaf and fresh thyme, a few cups of water, and that was it. I set it all to boil for twenty minutes to give the carrots and apples a chance to soften, and went and wrote a few pages of chapter one on the next book.

Then came the least fun part--the pureeing! I always make an enormous mess with hot soup and a blender. Too big a mess to worry about taking pictures of it, that's for sure.
But eventually it was done, and all loaded back into the original pot for reheating and seasoning. This is where I noticed the almost candy-like sweetness of the soup, and upped both the salt and the cider vinegar amounts. Salt doesn't always make things just taste salty. In cooking, it acts more as a flavor enhancer, bringing out the deeper notes in a dish and showcasing them. And the cider vinegar was just good.
I served it with the bacon crumbled on top, accompanied by a green salad with my favorite shallot vinaigrette (more about that tomorrow--I've got the coolest new gadget!!), and a glass of unbelievably delicious pinot noir that was really too heavy for the meal but was so good we didn't care. The soup was great, especially the bacon bites. I'd love to try it sometime with the right kind of squash--roasting the buttercup made my house smell like the inside of a jack-'o-lantern. But good quality cider vinegar is a must for this recipe, because it's added at the end and not cooked down, and it's all that saves the soup from being dessert.

And there you have it! My first command performance. Next month, maybe I'll get you folks to vote on something out of Saveur or Cook's Illustrated. We'll have to see.


Lulu, that just sounds divine!

It looks absolutely delicious!

What kind of a grocery store doesn't carry butternut squash? Remind me where you live again? Soviet Russia?

I know, right? Northeastern Ohio is a barren wasteland right now, in terms of acceptable produce.

I LOVE butternut squash/cup soup *g* That looks so tasty. Esp the vino.

The wine was GOOD. I am not overstating it when I say it's some of the best I ever had. It was a little sad to go to all that effort and have the wine totally upstage the food. But not sad enough to make me pour a glass of something different.

Ooh it looks yummy! I want to see pictures of you covered in soup from the blender, missy.
I'm teaching my 17 year old to cook at the moment and we are having a great deal of fun! Tonight we are attempting the Chicken Spaghetti recipe from the Pioneer Woman site.

Okay, your store did not have butternut squash but it did have buttercup squash? How very weird is that? Anyway, now I'm wondering if the butternut would have been less sweet. Hmmm... Sounds yummy, regardless. And all warm and cozy. :)

I'm not a squash fan, but I'd eat it! :)

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