Monday, September 27, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

It’s official; summer is over. Gone are the days of flip flops and Bermuda shorts, here to stay are hoodies and long underwear. It was our turn to cook lunch for the young adult group at church last Sunday, and we wanted to make something that reflected the change in season and warmed us from the inside out. Right about now the gardens go from offering all those tart, bright tomatoes to the heartier vegetables like squash, so that’s what we went with.

We made a creamy and spicy roasted butternut squash soup without using cream or milk. The key is making something called a velouté, which is basically a roux that’s thinned a little with stock to remove that raw flour taste and give your soup the thickness it needs. For those steering clear of dairy but love creamy soups this is a great technique to learn.

This recipe also calls for Five Spice, sometimes marked as Chinese Five Spice in stores. This little jar changed our lives (not really, but it’s still pretty cool). It’s a mixture of cinnamon, clove and other spices, which vary from maker to maker, but they all provide a sweet and spicy powder that’s great in everything from tempura batter to pumpkin pie. If you don’t have it, you should get it. If you don’t want to get it, I guess you could leave it out, but you don’t know what you’re missing.

As a finish touch, we recommend a dollop of sour cream, some chopped sage and a few homemade thyme croutons. We served our soup with bistro BLTs and used the heels of the bread to make these crunchy salty bites, and the recipes for both will be on another post.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Step One: Roast the squash:

About 3 pounds butternut squash (preferably 1 large squash)
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil 
¼ cup of water
2 tbl finely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tbl granulated sugar
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp of five spice (optional)

Peel, seed, and cube the squash and place in a bowl and cover with olive oil. In a saucepan, stir together water and sugar and boil to make simple syrup. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, sage leaves, salt and pepper and the five spice, if using. Pour over the squash. Place the squash on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes at 400 degrees until tender. Blend in a processor until smooth.

Step Two: Make velouté.

½ stick of butter
1/3 cup of flour
½ cup of chicken stock

In a pan melt your butter and add flour over medium heat to make a roux. After the roux has been mixed well add the stock. After the stock is well-incorporated set aside.

Step three: Make the rest of the soup already.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup onion, diced
½ cup celery, diced
½ cup carrot, diced
1 cinnamon stick
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper

In a pot, sauté your onion, celery and carrot in olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the volute to the vegetable mixture and gradually add the rest of your stock. Add your butternut squash and mix until smooth. At this point you can add a cinnamon stick, extra salt, or cayenne pepper to taste. Cayenne pepper adds an extra kick and works well with the sweetness of the soup.

Let the soup simmer for about 1 hour. Before you serve or store, fish out the cinnamon stick. If you refrigerate make sure to add more stock or water when you reheat or it will be too thick. Serve in bowls, obviously, with a dollop of sour cream, chopped sage and croutons, if desired.

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