Quarantine Life recipe of the day: butternut squash soup

More Quarantine Life! Here’s a great recipe for a cold Seattle day.  It’s a thick, hearty, and very filling soup; you can use it as an appetizer, but I usually serve it as a main dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion (yellow or white), coarsely chopped
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably low-sodium
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 1⁄2 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1⁄2 cup cream or whole milk
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon brandy

In a large saucepan or medium stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion is translucent but not brown. Add the thyme and curry powder, and cook 1 minute longer. Sprinkle the flour over the
onion mixture, then stir until onion is evenly coated. Cook 3 to 4 minutes.

Slowly add stock and apple juice, then the squash. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook until squash is VERY tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the mixture to a blender in small batches, taking care to fill blender jar no more than half full.
Blend, starting at low speed, and then increasing speed to puree the soup until smooth. After blending, pour each batch into a large metal or pyrex bowl until done blending all of the soup.

Give the pan a quick clean to remove any remaining lumps of onion and squash, pour the soup back into it, put it back on the stovetop and set the burner to medium heat. Stir in the cream and brandy until well mixed (about 30 seconds).  Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat until steaming but not boiling (about 185 degrees).

Remove from heat, ladle into bowls and serve.

This recipe makes about four cups of soup.


Notes and tips:

  • The larger the chunks of butternut squash, the longer it will need to cook to become tender — and you run the risk of boiling off too much of the liquid before the squash is done. So aim for 1/2-inch pieces, and if it does start to dry out, add more stock and apple juice. Also, I recommend wearing disposable gloves when cutting up butternut squash as you can end up with a sticky film on your hands that’s hard to wash off.
  • Pro tip for cutting up the squash: the stem is much easier to work with than the ball. Cut off the whole stem, then the tip. Stand it on its end, and slice off the peel with lengthwise cuts from top to bottom, working your way around the cylinder. Then cut the cylinder lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices, and dice each of the slices.
  • The best part of making this recipe is the minute after you add the thyme and curry powder. Savor every moment of it.
  • I think it tastes better with chicken stock, but use vegetable stock if you want to make it 100% vegetarian.
  • The brandy is optional, but really brings out the best in the soup. Here’s why: we can only taste flavor agents that have been dissolved in one of four substances: water, fat, acid, or alcohol — and many flavors will not dissolve in all four of them. This is definitely one of those recipes: the alcohol releases all sorts of yummy flavor that would otherwise be hiding in the soup. If you don’t believe me: try tasting it before and after you add the brandy. But hey, it’s still a really great soup without it, so you do you.
  • You can adjust the proportions of stock and juice to your liking, as long as you keep the total volume the same. More stock will make it more savory; more juice will make it sweeter and fruitier. I find 50:50 works well.
  • Be very, very careful blending the hot soup. DO NOT FILL YOUR BLENDER MORE THAN HALFWAY FULL. Since the soup is still lumpy, it is going to splash up, and it can easily push the lid off and send scalding liquid everywhere.  After you’ve put a batch in your blender, put the lid on, cover the lid with a towel, put your hand on the towel to hold the lid on, and start the blender on low until the biggest chunks have been cut down to size and the soup is churning evenly. Then you can turn up the speed.

 

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