24 November 2010

Falling further behind

I had plans for a week of Thanksgiving preparations here.

Cranberry sauce? Certainly! Brussels Sprouts? You bet! Stuffing with Sausage and Apples? Sure!

Unfortunately, life intervened. As a peace offering, I bring you soup.

soup with bread

To be precise, Butternut Squash-Apple Soup, and the perfect answer to a cool fall day. We eat this all winter long—even Mike, who claims to not like soup, has proclaimed that he would happily eat this every week.

Puréed vegetable soups are ideal for winter; the kind of food that makes you dream about climbing down into your mug for a warm, velvety soak.

Also, puréed soups are deceptively easy to make; onions and apples are softened in some butter, then mixed with roasted butternut squash purée, stock, and some minimal seasonings. After simmering, it is blended and reheated with a bit of cream. The sweetness of the squash is tempered by the onions and the slightly tart apples (I like to use an eating apple like Gala or a tart Granny Smith or Pippin), and the cream adds just enough body and richness to bring it all together.

The first few times I made this soup, I forced the purée through a sieve before adding the cream, which resulted in a perfect, even-textured soup. Until I have enough room for a chinois or a food mill, though, I don't think it's worth the effort; a good blender will leave a lovely texture and remove any possible stringiness from the squash.

butternut squash-apple soup

This would be an ideal first course at a fancy Thanksgiving meal, but is equally welcome in a big mug with a slice of crusty bread, eaten while wrapped in a blanket on the couch.

For those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, have a lovely day filled with food, laughter, and friends.

Butternut Squash-Apple Soup
I find that 4 pounds of squash will yield about 3 pounds of purée—I usually leave the leftovers for another use or for a small batch of soup later in the week, but this will scale up just fine.

2 pounds butternut squash flesh(see below)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 medium sweet-tart or tart apples (I prefer Gala), peeled, cored & thinly sliced
2 ½ cups mild vegetable or chicken stock, plus more if needed
1 large bay leaf
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ cup heavy cream
black pepper

To prepare the squash, preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise with a heavy knife, then scoop out the seeds and pulp. Place the squash on a large baking sheet, cut side down, and roast until they are quite tender when pierced with a knife or skewer, 30-60 minutes depending on size. Set on a rack until cool enough to handle. Scoop out the flesh from the skin with a spoon.

Place the butter in a large, heavy pan on medium heat. Add the onions and apples to the hot pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, 5-10 minutes.

Add the squash, bay leaf, salt, and 2 ½ cups stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer about 30 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.

Transfer to a blender and let cool slightly, then carefully purée, working in batches if needed. If preferred, blend in the pot with an immersion blender (this will generally lead to a coarser purée). Transfer to a clean pot or, if desired, force the purée through a fine sieve. Set over medium heat and stir in the cream. Heat just to a boil, then season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4 as a main dish

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