The Foodie Files – Roast Butternut Squash Soup

Ben Whelan

In the sparse months of winter fresh, delicious vegetables are often hard to come by. Without the luxury of farmers markets, which usually fold up their tables in late November, traditionally New Englanders would turn to their stores that were prepared over the summer and after the harvest in late fall and kept in root cellars waiting to be used to sustain the harsh months of winter. Now unless you have a canning operation or a farm of some kind, it is unlikely that you spent your time pickling, preserving and curing in preparation (maybe next year). However, before you turn to watery tomatoes and other steroid-pumped comestibles shipped from far off tropical climes (like California), take some time to indulge the beauty that is the Butternut Squash. The Butternut is not only locally grown and still in season, but is delicious, lovely with its orange hue, and rich as the name implies.

While this hearty member of the squash family is perfectly good stuffed, sautéed or even grilled as is, my favorite preparation for the do-it-all gourd is to make a soup out of it. This recipe highlights the creaminess of the Butternut while gently accenting its subtle, nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Its bright saffron color is also a beautiful addition to any winter feast table setting.

Roast Butternut Squash Soup

1 Butternut squash

1 medium onion, rough chopped

½ Stick of Butter

¼ cup EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

1 quart chicken stock (broth)

.5 liter apple cider

½ tspn cinnamon

½ tspn allspice

1 cup sherry or white wine

3 cups milk

Begin by peeling the squash and cutting off the ends and preheating the oven to 375°. Then, placing the squash upright on one of the flat ends you just created, cut the Butternut lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibrous membrane material. Cut the squash into 1-inch cubes and lay them out on a sheet pan, making sure that they are spread evenly so that each piece is touching the pan. Next, drizzle the EVOO evenly over the pan and sprinkle the cinnamon and allspice over the cubes. Time to get messy: Mix the whole pan with you hands to make sure that each cube is coated to some degree with oil and spices and then roast in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the squash is soft and yields little resistance when probed with a fork.

When the squash have been cooking for about half an hour and finish roasting away, melt your butter in a large pot over a medium heat and add your chopped onion. The onion doesn’t need to be finely chopped by any means but shouldn’t be crazy huge either. Cook down the onion until it becomes translucent and immediately reduce the heat if you begin to see any signs of browning, as this will bring out too many of the sugars in the onion turning them very sweet. Normally I am a huge fan of the caramelized onion, but in this case the onion is serving a savory purpose so we don’t want it to be overly sweet. By this point the squash should be done, so remove the pan from the oven and drain off the excess oil. Take a minute to revel in the heavenly olfactory stimulation and then throw the squash into the pot with your onion and butter. Let this mixture cook for five to ten minutes then turn up the heat to medium high and gradually begin adding your chicken stock, cider, and sherry/white wine waiting a little bit between each addition until most of the liquid has been absorbed.

After adding all of the liquid and letting most of it absorb, transfer the contents into a blender or food processor and puree until as smooth as possible. At this point it should resemble something not unlike a glossy, very fine baby food. Transfer the squash puree back into your pot, turn up the heat to medium high and begin adding the milk. Three cups is probably a good bet to start with, but at this point you can keep adding more to thin it out as much as you want depending on how you like your soup consistency and how much you want to make. After the milk has been incorporated and the soup is wear you want it, season with a little salt and pepper and spoon it into bowls or tureens. If you want to get all fancy about it, garnish by putting a dollop of crème fraiche in the middle of the bowl and sprinkling chopped pistachios around the edges for color.

This thick, rich soup is a great way to warm up on a frigid winters day and makes a great ready-to-go lunch if you’re brown bagging it or a quick snack if you’re just bumming around the house. As always, let me know how it goes and keep eating well!