Squash Soup (Winter Squash, That Is)
The secret to soups made with winter squashes is roasting the squash before adding it to your soup stock. Some recipes say you can microwave the squash, which is fine if you're into something that tastes like the gruel fed to orphans in Dickens novels. Yep, roasting the squash adds a good hour and a half to the cooking time, but, it's soup, durnit! Since when was soup supposed to be a quick dish? What roasting does is caramelize the sugars and remove a bunch of moisture (which makes up the most of any vegetable), resulting in concentrated flavors that enhance, rather than just thicken, the soup.
Mixing in some cream at the end brings the soup to a whole new luxurious level. But, it's not needed if your goal is to simply satisfy your guest with some honest cuisine.
This soup can be made with any winter squash: Butternut, Acorn, Hubbard, whatever. I made it tonight with Red Kuri squash that I picked up from a local farm stand. To be honest, I find that all winter squashes taste pretty much the same. Side by side there are subtle differences (which makes winter squash interesting in the same sense that various varieties of tomatoes are interesting), but those differences don't have much affect in terms of cooking. A pumpkin cut in half, filled with butter, brown sugar and nuts and roasted until tender will taste just as wonderful as an acorn squash treated the same way (a wonderful, simple, cheap meal that Francie and I enjoyed frequently before and after we were first married). Around this time of year you should find winter squash a-plenty in your market. Do yourself a favor and grab some and make some soup.
Winter Squash Soup
Serves four adults as a main course, six as a starter
1 medium winter squash (enough to generate about 4–5 cups of squash flesh) br> 1 tablespoon butter or oil. 1 cup chopped onion br> 1 tablespoon minced ginger (don't substitute powdered - just leave it out if you can't get fresh ginger). br> 1 stick of cinnamon bark (or 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon) br> 3 sprigs fresh thyme (1/4 teaspoon dried) br> 1 bay leaf br> 1 teaspoon salt br> 1/4 teaspoon white pepper br> 5 cups chicken stock (vegetable broth is wonderful you're vegetarian, but it doesn't provide the same mouth-feel if you're not) br> 1/2 cup heavy cream (very optional) br>
- Preheat the oven to 400°
- Cut the squash in half (stem to bottom), scoop out the seeds and other icky stuff with a spoon, and place cut side down on a sheet pan.
- Roast the squash for 1 to 1–1/2 hours, or until the skin is dark and bubbly. When done, remove the squash from the oven, turn it over so that the cut side is up, and let the squash cool. Turning the squash over is important as it lets more of the moisture from the squash evaporate. The moisture you want in the soup is flavorful stock or broth, not boring water from the squash.
- Sauté the onion in the butter and oil over medium heat until softened (about three minutes).
- Add the minced ginger, cinnamon, thyme, bay leaf, salt and white pepper and continue cooking over medium heat until the onions begin to brown (about 5 more minutes — it's hard to tell if you're using ground cinnamon, but you're looking for onion pieces that you can easily smush with the back of a spoon).
- By now the squash should be cool enough to handle (if not, use a towel or oven mitt to hold the squash). Peel the skin from the squash and cut the squash meat into one to two inch chunks (in this one instance, size really doesn't matter).
- Add the stock (or broth) and squash pieces to the onions and simmer uncovered over very low heat (only two to four bubbles on the surface ever minute) for at least one hour. If you can't get the heat of your burner that low, partially cover the soup and be sure to stir it every few minutes.
- After an hour or so the soup is actually done and can be served as is. Most people think of squash soups as creamy, though, so you may want to pur#233;e it until fairly smooth with a stick blender. The next level of refinement would be to pur#233;e it in a blender (don't use a food processor unless you enjoy cleaning soup off of the engine housing and counter)
- As a finishing touch you may wish to blend in the heavy cream. As pictured, I only added a dollop of sour cream and used a toothpick to create the star thing.
© Copyright 2002, Richard L. Chase
Posted on Sep 21, 2002 @ 10:54 PM
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