Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What I'm Eating Now--The Best Freakin' Butternut Squash Soup, Ever

Ever. In the history of all soups.

I made this for my monthly Supper Club when the theme was....secret ingredient, gourds! (Iron Chef style).

Ingredients:

4  cups  (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1  tablespoon  olive oil
1/4  teaspoon  salt
4  large shallots, peeled and halved
1  (1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
2 1/2  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2  tablespoons  (1-inch) slices fresh chives
Cracked black pepper (optional)
My notes on the ingredients:

4 cups of cubed squash equals about one medium sized squash (the weigh listed above, 1 1/2 pounds, I've found to be fairly accurate).

I've made this soup both with and without the ginger, it tastes fine either way. If you have all the other ingredients, don't kill yourself making a trip just for the ginger. On that note you could also probably use onion and garlic to get the same effect as shallots, but I personally really like them in this recipe and wouldn't sub them out.

The recipe, made as outlined above, has more of a puree consistency...if you want it thinner, add more broth during the blender portion of the recipe. Also, I'd recommend low-sodium broth since you're already adding some salt (I used sea salt). It just allows you to control the salt level/taste of your dish a little more.

I did not use chives, as I generally do not believe in garnishes (read-I am too cheap to buy ingredients to make garnishes).

Recipe:

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Combine first 5 ingredients in a roasting pan or jelly-roll pan; toss well. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Cool 10 minutes.

3. Place half of squash mixture and half of broth in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large saucepan. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture and broth. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Top with chives and pepper, if desired.

My notes on the recipe:

So, what no one ever tells you (shocking, considering how often you discuss gourds, right?) is that peeling and cubing a butternut squash...not that easy. There are really two layers you need to peel off. The first is the actual outer skin, and of course it's pretty obvious that you don't want to eat that. You then need to go back and do a second peel to remove that layer with the thin, semi-translucent green veins. Help yourself out and try to get the most uniformly-shaped squash you can at the grocery or farmer's market. Those curvy squashes are prettier (and, I'm told, can be decorated to resemble geese, so that's exciting) but their unusual shape makes it tough to get your little veggie peeler angled correctly. Then again I'm also using what I assume to be a carrot peeler, so perhaps that's my problem...

Now that you've spent 30 minutes peeling your squash (worth it), you need a really big knife to begin cubing. The center is softer and has seeds, so be advised...if you're leaning your entire body weight on the knife because you lack upper body strength, you're going to get about half way through the squash and feel it give substantially. Don't fall over.

Be careful not to overcook the squash...if it gets too done (read-burnt) in the oven, it will alter the taste of your soup. If you're like me and decide to increase the temperature from 375 because you're impatient, make sure you're watching the oven closely.

Definitely use the paper towel over the blender (explained in recipe), and increase the blender speed gradually. That's probably pretty obvious, but once or twice I've started out the blender on the highest speed (see comment above re: my impatience), and trust me, not an overall time saver because with the time you've saved blending you'll be scraping a lovely orange Jackson Pollack off of your kitchen walls.

Otherwise, it's a fairly simple and straightforward recipe--enjoy!

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