Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Savory Butternut Squash Soup

I made this for a Thanksgiving Potluck at work last week. I've made it a few times; but this time it turned out really well. Turns out this is vegan, without really trying. I used olive oil instead of butter (because I frequently do) and I used vegetable stock rather than a chicken stock because I didn't want the squash to get overshadowed by a meat stock. Not that vegan matters to me; but if you have vegan friends over for dinner; just another good reason to make this soup!

  • 3 medium butternut squash
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 4 shallots
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 gala apple
  • 1 box of vegetable stock. I forget the size... its the box :) - maybe a quart or so? And I forget the brand - but the ingredients were vegetables, seasonings and water. That was it. No MSG, etc.
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • white pepper

Salt and pepper are to taste... I never measure (just sprinkle some around) - but I *probably* used about a tablespoon of salt and maybe a few teaspoons of pepper. Its good to use white pepper both because of the flavor; but also that way you don't have any black flecks of pepper in the soup.

Make a Mirepoix by dicing the celery, shallots (or onion) and carrots very small and the sweating in a few table spoons of olive oil in a soup pot. Basically you are sauteing them until they become translucent, but not browned. Add in the apple (skin removed and diced small) and saute it as well. Stir occasionally and once it starts getting a little soft add in the salt and pepper.

Cut several slits in the squash - just stab them with a knife a 3 or 4 times, cut the steam off and microwave them for about 15 minutes. Cut them in half and the flesh should be fairly soft. If it isn't; microwave them some more. All 3 may not fit at once so you may have to do one or two at a time. Remove the seeds and discard, and then scoop out the flesh into a bowl and mash with a potato masher. This is just to break it up some. Mashing with a fork or whatever would work as well.

While the squash is microwaving the Mirepoix/apple should have cooked enough. You don't want it to brown or stick, so once it is translucent/soft; you'll add in some of the vegetable stock. Just enough so its not quite covered. You then use an immersion blender to blend up the mixture and let it continue to simmer, adding stock once in a while to keep it a liquid and not drying out, sticking, etc.

As the squash gets down, mash it up and then add it into the soup base, blending it up and adding vegetable stock as needed. Once all the squash is added you'll have blended it several times and you'll also have used up all of the stock and need to add some water to get the right consistency.

I made the soup the night before, let it cool and refrigerated it. The next morning I put it back on the stove; warmed it up (blending it one final time) and then put it in a crock pot on low for several hours before the potluck. You don't want it in the crock pot all day or over night; because it will dry out around the edges, which will turn brown, and that will darken the soup.

A few final comments.
  • As noted, you don't have to use shallots, you can use a large onion
  • Better to under season in the beginning; taste after its cooked for a bit and season some more if needed. I probably cooked this 2 hours before putting in the fridge, then another hour in the morning. Plenty of time to adjust the seasoning.
  • I made this the night before, but I've also made it the same day and served it. This is the best its ever turned out; but I think that is probably more the marepoix (I didn't use carrot in the past I don't think) then letting sit over night
  • You don't *have* to use an immersion blender if you don't have one. Using a blender or a food processor would work as well. I just do it in multiple stages, so an immersion blender works better. But you could make the marepoix, food process it; then food processor the squash as it is done and add it as well. Which might make it all "smooth" enough w/o having to do it multiple times. I just like to play while I cook. :)
  • The texture is a personal choice thing. The immersion blender doesn't make it a total liquid. There is a bit of texture left. I blend it numerous times to get it very soft; but I've also made it with a little more texture, etc. So blend it, or food processor it; until it gets to the consistency that you think is right.

While it does take some amount of time to make this soup, it really isn't technically hard; and it has a very good flavor. Well worth the effort; plus the color is very cool at the Halloweeen/Thanksgiving time of year.