For Fresh Fridays, Joe teaches you how to make one of his favorite types of soup, cream of butternut squash.
So, for a cool fall evening I thought I would write a bit about soups, and in particular the pureed soups that are ever popular with fall squashes, butternut, perhaps being one of the most common types. These are easy soups to prepare, but the difficult work can come when you have to peel some of these peculiarly shaped squashes, such as buttercup, hubbard, and some pumpkin varieties…just to name a few of the more oddly shaped ones. The things that you will need to have are a good blender, a big stock pot, and an ultra heavy duty vegetable peeler (I find that the pull down type work better for rugged jobs than the side to side types).For the purposes of this post I will list the basic method to making a good cream of squash soup, and then follow it up with my recipe for cream of butternut. This method was adapted from legendary French chef Joel Robuchon’s recipe for cream of pumpkin soup. Chef Robuchon’s seasonal cookbooks have been a constant inspiration throughout my culinary career, as he tends to have an elegant yet simple style that makes common ingredients become incredible.
The rough idea to this soup is to have approximately the same amounts by volume of peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped squash, and stock, which you will be boiling the squash in (for squash soups, chicken stock is the natural choice). Begin by placing the squash pieces into your large stock pot, pour in the chicken stock to just about cover the top of the squash, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook till the squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Next, you will be pureeing this mixture in your blender, in small batches (you could use an immersion blender, but I find that the container-type blender results in a smoother soup). Ladle a few scoops of the solids and then just a scoop or two of the liquid into your blender and puree till smooth. Repeat this process till all the squash and stock are pureed smooth. If it seems too watery, use less stock and more squash, if too thick do the opposite. Now that you have all your squash and stock pureed, return to your cleaned stock pot and bring to a light simmer, add heavy cream, spices/flavorings (salt, white pepper, nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, honey, sugar, maple syrup, all work well in these type soups) and bring back to a simmer. Remember when flavoring these soups that the squash themselves already contain a good deal of natural sweetness, so season carefully and think savory. The last thing you want is to have an overly sweet soup that tastes like candy, or worse, one of those super sweet candied yam casseroles with the marshmallow fluff on it. If your soup is this sweet, you may have trouble getting your guests to partake in the next courses of the meal. 😉
To finish the soup I like to whisk in some cold unsalted butter pieces which provides some additional savory richness and body. If after all this your soup seems too thick, you can thin by whisking in some more stock. If too thin then you can whisk in some cornstarch diluted in cold water, like finishing a gravy. Some other types of squash/vegetables that work well for these soups are, acorn squash, buttercup squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, potato, and leek, and you could even do a nice creamed carrot soup this way.
Experiment with lots of different types of squashes/vegetables and seasonings, and enjoy!
Joe’s Fall Cream of Butternut Squash Soup
Note: These are restaurant size portions so either make a large batch or cut back on the portions.
4 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
2 large white onions, peeled and quartered
6 qt homemade dark chicken stock (store bought works fine too)
3/4 qt heavy cream
1/4 lb unsalted butter chopped small
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 tbsp dark amber maple syrup
2 cinnamon sticks
2 or 3 small dashes freshly grated nutmeg
-Boil butternut squash and onion in chicken stock till tender
-Puree all ingredients from previous step in blender
-Return to cleaned stockpot, add seasoning ingredients, whisk thoroughly to combine, bring back up to simmer
-Add heavy cream, whisk to combine, bring back up to simmer
-Add butter, turn off heat, whisk till butter is melted and incorporated, remove cinnamon sticks and taste for seasoning.
The finished product of this soup should be velvety smooth and more savory than sweet. The texture should be that of warm baby food (sorry for the potentially appetite altering metaphor). The color should be a rich pumpkin orange lightly flecked by the grated nutmeg. This soup will keep for up to a week in the fridge.
You can download a PDF version of this Cream of Butternut Squash Soup.
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Photo by: Divine Domesticity