They had me at "butternut squash soup that tastes like butternut squash". There's no counting the recipes I've tried, reaching in vain for that color of honeyed gold, making one after another Sisyphean trip up the hill of butternut squash soup worth making, for its own sake, for its own silky-soup winter squash glory.
Finally. I loved this soup, I think you will too, I want you to love this soup!
The 'recipe' is all about the technique and comes from America's Test Kitchen, that's the parent company to Cook's Illustrated. It 'looks' complicated and yes, there are a few steps. But since I watch the clock, I know that the recipe takes only 30 minutes of hands-on time and that's for a soup ever-so-worthy of our time. Even more, the technique is dead easy. I made a few notes watching the ATK video but didn't once refer to them while cooking. Make this soup once, you'll not forget, the technique OR the flavor!
Here are the tricks to making butternut squash soup taste like butternut squash. I wonder if the same principles might be applied to other soups too? or other butternut squash dishes?
The focus is entirely on the butternut squash, no spices or other attention-grabbing ingredients.
The squash flavor is bumped up by capturing all the flavor inside the 'gunk and seeds' inside the bulb. This worked beautifully with Farro Risotto with Butternut Squash & Mushrooms. Once again, brilliant!
Use water rather than stock for the liquid, again, so not to take away from the delicate butternut squash flavor and color.
UPDATE If you love the idea of butternut squash soup, here's a new soup recipe that adds the sweetness of fruit, Butternut Squash Soup with Mango & Toasted Coconut.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP THAT ACTUALLY TASTES LIKE BUTTERNUT SQUASH
Time to table: 60 minutes
Makes 7 cups
4 tablespoons butter (see ALANNA'S TIPS)
2 shallots, chopped fine
1 large butternut squash, about 3 pounds, washed well
6 cups water
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup cream
COOK THE SHALLOTS In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter until shimmery on MEDIUM HEAT. Add the shallots and stir to coat with fat, let cook til soft.
TRIM the SQUASH Cut off the root and stem ends. Cut off the bulb (that's the rounder end that holds the seeds and 'gunk'). Cut the bulb in half and scrape out the seeds and the 'gunk' inside. Don't throw it away -- this is the brilliant part, add it to the shallots in the pot and stir to coat with the fat, let it cook right along with the onions. Cut the two bulb halves in half again. If the neck is long, cut it in half cross-wise, then cut each piece into quarters, lengthwise.
STEAM the SQUASH Add the water and salt to the onion mixture. Place a collapsible steamer basket in the pot. If the steamer basket is submerged in water, put something underneath to raise it up so the squash can steam, not boil. (I used four beaters from a hand mixer, they worked perfectly.) Arrange the squash pieces, flesh-side down, in the steamer basket, this takes a little finagling, try to get as close as possible to a single layer, cutting pieces to fit if needed. Cover and adjust the temperature to bring the water to a boil and then to simmer. Steam the squash for about 30 minutes until the squash is soft. Turn off the heat and remove the squash pieces to cool (the pot's cover worked perfectly).
SEPARATE THE LIQUID & SOLIDS Drain the contents of the pot through a strainer into a bowl, save the liquid, discard the solids.
PURÉE With a knife, cut off most of the flesh of each piece of squash, then use a spoon to gently scrape off the remaining flesh. (The skins are very soft, so this takes a light touch, see NOTES.) Add some of the squash to a blender and a cup or two of liquid. Be careful not to fill the blender more than half to 2/3 full (otherwise, this can happen). Purée til smooth and pour back into the pot. Repeat with the remaining squash and liquid.
FINISH With the heat on MEDIUM LOW, bring the soup back to temperature. Taste and add salt if needed. Stir in the cream (see TIPS) and let reheat but do not boil.
I think we could save some calories by using just 2 tablespoons butter. Still, this soup doesn't have that fatty mouthfeel that to me, anyway, points to too much butter.
I found removing the steamed flesh from the large sections of squash to be a little fussy. Next time I'd be tempted to just cut the squash into cubes before cooking, like in a How to Cut a Butternut Squash and Keep All Ten Fingers.
For appearance's sake, I'd rather drizzle a little cream over top of each serving than to combine it into the soup itself.
The second day, this soup is a little bit thicker and just maybe, just a tidge bit better. But I wouldn't hesitate to serve it Day One.
So there's no messing with a perfect recipe, right? Okay. For grins, I'd like to stir in a teaspoon of dry sherry, or maybe whipped cream spike with sherry. For smooth-smooth-smooth soup, I'd push it through a chinois.
~ Savory Bread Pudding with Butternut Squash, Chard & Cheddar ~
~ Sweet Potato & Butternut Squash Tagine ~
~ How to Cut a Butternut Squash ~
~ more winter squash recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Roasted Butternut Squash with Apple ~
from Kitchen Parade