Butternut Squash Soup

In the midst of me being very obsessed with the pumpkin soup I had in Germany, as well as the cool fall weather happening and making me want all things pumpkin/apple/fall flavored- I got an email from America's Test Kitchen with a tried and true recipe for Butternut Squash Soup.
I think that's what we call divine intervention.  Or something.  America's Test Kitchen said that most butternut squash soups were more about the spices and cream added and end up tasting like a liquid pumpkin pie, which is good sometimes, but not when you want something really full of squash flavor and highlighting the in-season produce right now, not masking those flavors.  So I flagged the email as important, and made sure to buy a butternut squash the next time I went to the grocery store.

True story, I think there are fewer things more difficult in this life, than cutting a butternut squash and peeling it.  I specifically bought a new peeler last time I bought a butternut squash to try to make my life easier.  That helped, but it's still not my favorite thing in this world.

The ingredients are simple, which makes sense- we're really trying to highlight the butternut squash.
  • 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks (about 7 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or oil if desired)
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, quartered lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 - 2 cups water
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch cayenne pepper 
  • Sour cream to serve, if desired
Place squash in bowl, cover, and microwave until paring knife glides easily through flesh, 14 to 18 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Transfer squash to colander set in bowl (squash will be very hot) and drain for 5 minutes; reserve liquid.
PS- Make sure you save those seeds when you cut up the squash.  Roast them with a little olive oil and salt and they will be perfect in your soup to add some crunch.  Yummm
Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, or any large pot you have.
Add squash, leek, and 1 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until squash pieces begin to break down and brown bits form in bottom of pot, 10 to 13 minutes.
Add 2 cups broth and scrape bottom of pot to loosen and dissolve those yummy brown bits.
Add remaining 2 cups broth, reserved squash liquid, 1 cup water, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and cayenne. I didn't have the fresh thyme, so I just added some dried thyme and didn't get to remove it at the end as instructed- dried herbs have more concentrated flavor than fresh, and again, since I wouldn't be removing it at the end, I didn't add much, just a dash or two.  Add thyme based on your own taste!
Increase heat to high and bring to simmer.
Reduce heat to medium and simmer until leeks are fully tender, 6 to 7 minutes.
At this point, the seeds were good and roasted, and I set them aside and prepared some slices of french bread with some olive oil and mozzarella to act as croutons to dip in the soup.
Remove and discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Use an immersion blender right in the pot, or working in batches, process soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot and bring to simmer, thinning with up to 1 cup water to desired consistency.
Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve with dollop of sour cream and/or those roasted seeds. (Soup can be made up to 2 days in advance.)
Don't forget those croutons you made!  I loved the mild cheese with the smooth soup, as well as the salty crunch of the seeds.  In fact, with the seeds, I didn't even need these croutons, but who doesn't love bread and melty cheese, lol.
Dinner is served!  The soup could have been thinned out some, like the recipe said, but I loved the heartier texture.  I loved how this soup did exactly what it promised- really focused on the fall flavor of butternut squash and warmed me up on a cool fall night :-)

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