Man, it’s cold out here in St. Paul. Time to start a fire in the fireplace and bundle up on the couch with the hottie of your choice. That and make some soup. And I had this here big ass butternut squash sitting around Bloated Belly HQ for nearly three weeks. “Oh NO! It’s prob’ly gone bad inside,” you say. And that’s what I thought. But fortunately, by dumb luck I had it stored in the right spot—kinda cool and dark—and with those conditions, those suckas will keep for a month.
I like butternut squash soup. Had a heavenly cup of it at Kafé 421 back in October. Nice and thick and smooooth, rich with flavor, alongside a sliced turkey breast sandwich warmed up with melted brie and thin slices of granny smith apple. Yum.
Then a couple weeks later had a not so good bowl somewhere else—watery, bland and yellow.
So there I was in the early part of November, standing in the grocery store fishing through the produce when lo and behold, a monster butternut squash stuck out from the pile of other squashes like a porn star (male) at attention, little did it know that it was about to be met with a fate similar to John Wayne Bobbitt.
Bought it. Then my mag deadline rolled around. Then Thanksgiving. Finally, last week, I set about with the slice and dice. But I had to settle on a recipe, first. There’s so many out there. So many different ways to prepare the squash, mixing it with this vegetable or that fruit, steaming it or roasting it, blah blah blah. A chef friend, Mr. High Falutin’ I-Was-Stud-Chef-in-California-for-Almost-Two-Decades said, “Hey, it’s the squash, tart apples, onion, cream, nutmeg, white pepper and cayenne. Simple. Figure it out, fuck-o.”
Thanks, dick. Cayenne?
So my tiny little brain got tired pondering all the different ways to mix and match and mash and squeeze and boil. I could feel my mass squishing around up there on the ol’ brainpan, and then like a fine bowel movement, it squeezed out an idea. And what follows is my very own recipe, I guess, the product of all the other ideas out there. And for you veg-heads out there, pay close attention, ‘cause this might be the only thing off this here blog you’ll be able to cook.
Now some recipes will tell you to roast it, skin side up, then clean it up. Naw, naw naw. Just peel it. The skin on these is soft enough to use a reg’lar ol’ vegetable peeler. Now some recipes will tell you to chop it up and steam cook it with the other stuff you’re gonna put into it. Again, I say no. I ain’t no fancy-pants chef but I do know that there’s a lot of liquid in these squashies and you want to get rid of some of it. I read another recipe on a blog that said to take the stripped down, chopped up squash and let it sit in the fridge in a bowl or something for a day to drain. To drain? For a day or so? Crimmony.
Why not chop up the squash into rough chunks, and put ‘em on a pan coated with a little olive oil and roast in a 350 degree F oven ‘til you can stick a knife through ‘em. That way you evaporate a lot of the liquid, and you get some nice roasty color and flavor. Huh? Huh? Isn’t that a good thought? Roasting takes about a half-hour or so. That’s a lot less than a day, right?
Then you get a big pot. Dice up one yellow onion. I wound up with
about two cups worth, which seemed like a lot on the cutting board, but once in the pot, it didn’t, particularly when I considered how much squash I had—about three pounds, after the cleaning and skinning. That’s a lot.
Put a tablespoon or more of butter in the pot, melt over medium high heat, then add the onions and sauté them ‘til their translucent and sorta soft. Not much more than five minutes. While that was going I peeled, cored and diced one granny smith apple. Agreed with the chef friend that the tartness of it would counter the sweet squash pretty nice.
Threw the apple and the roasted squash chunks in the pot and poured in three cups of chicken broth, which was the exact amount in this box of Kitchen Basics broth. Yeah, if I was truly dedicated, you say, I woulda made my own stock. Whatever. I’m an urban magazine editor, and you all might be busier than me. Some day when I’ve got the time and a leftover chicken carcass, I will. I’ve heard good things about this Kitchen Basics stuff from friends in the know (namely, it ain’t laden with salt and preservatives—it’s natural stuff, and don’t keep long after opening).
Now, you just know that some of those fancy thick restaurant soups have cream in ‘em, doncha? And a few of the recipes I found had it in there, too. So I eyeballed it and poured about one cup of heavy cream into the mix, gave it a stir, and brought it to a boil. It started smelling very nice at this point, and I let it simmer for about 10 minutes, everything was pretty soft by then.
Sure don’t look too pretty, though. But that will soon be corrected. Scoop out the mess into a trusty ol’ blender to begin the transformation (this had to be done in batches, and poured into another container). My old wreck of a blender’s “puree” button was plenty good, just gave ‘er a shake or two to keep the junk flowing.
Look at that, now, pouring out. PERFECT in every way, nice rich color and texture (not like that weak yellow watery crap I had at that one place). I like it a little thick. But you can adjust that with a bit more
stock or water, if you like. But the taste, in my opinion, was almost there as-is. I could taste that onion back there, and that granny smith tartness giving the tongue something to mull over.
Once that was done, then it was back in the big pot for the touchy part—the spices. Now I might be good, but not good enough to know what all works with what and how much, but I went with some recommendations: Nutmeg, for one. Went slow, one pinch at a time. For my batch of stuff (which totaled about nine cups or so) and went to about three or four pinches of nutmeg, and about three of white pepper, and a wee bit of sea salt from my grinder gave just the hint of something else there to cut the sweetness. I think the only thing I woulda done differently is have add a second granny smith apple, because the one I used was pretty small—it woulda just given that little extra zip, I think. But if you’ve got a good sized one, that should be fine.
“Oh,” you say, “what to garnish with? What to serve it with?”
I’ll show you what I did in a day or two. In the meantime just think of what you’d like to taste with it. But here’s the basic recipe for you.
Bloated Belly Butternut Squash Soup
Yield: Roughly 8-10 one-cup servings
• One big (or a couple small) butternut squash yielding about three-plus pounds after gutted and peeled
• One decent-sized yell0w onion
• One good-sized granny smith apple (or a couple small ones)
• Three cups chicken broth
• One cup heavy cream
• Nutmeg, white pepper, salt to taste
Halve butternut squash (chopping off stem, of course), clean out seed and goop, and peel. Dice squash into one- or two-inch chunks. Place chunks on lightly olive-oil-greased pan, place pan in 350 degree F oven until pieces can be pierced through with a knife (about a half-hour).
Peel and dice yellow onion. Melt one-plus tablespoons butter in large pot over medium-high heat. Toss in diced onion; sauté for about five minutes, until slightly translucent/soft. In meantime, peel, core and dice granny smith apple. When onions are finished, throw apple, roasted squash and chicken broth into pot. Add chicken broth and cream; stir and bring to a boil.
Let simmer for ten minutes, everything should be pretty soft. Puree in blender in batches. Once puree-ing is complete, return to pot and add spice to taste: three to four pinches of nutmeg, two to three pinches of white pepper, and some salt (again, to taste). Again, all this seasonal harvest varies, so if the soup is too thick to your liking, thin it with more stock or water. Cream will only increase the richness.
Garnish? Oh there’s plenty out there. Think about what you might like to taste with this soup. I’m still thinking about that.
NOTE: This soup is works very good on the reheat, too, so you can prepare it a day ahead of time for guests.