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Home » Practicing the basics: butternut squash soup

Practicing the basics: butternut squash soup

This is another basic soup recipe that incorporates the basics of soup-making: cook some flavoring ingredients, add stock, simmer for a long time. The twist here is that we will process it in a blender to make it a smooth, thick consistency.

Makes approximately 4 servings (depending on your portion size). Time required: 1 hour 30 minutes, including prep time.

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Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 4 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups apple juice
  • 1 lb. butternut squash: peeled, seeded, diced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup cream or half-and-half
  • 1 tsp. brandy

Prepping all of the ingredients ahead of time helps tremendously with this recipe, especially chopping the onions and dicing the squash.

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, 4-5 minutes. This is a classic start to a soup recipe: saute aromatic vegetables; in this case, just onion, which is very common in soups.

Add thyme and curry powder, and cook for one minute. We are “blooming” the herbs and spices to enhance their flavor.

Sprinkle flour over the onion mix and stir it in until it completely coats the onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring once a minute. This is the start of creating a “roux,” which will thicken the soup. Officially this is a ‘brown roux” because we are cooking the flour (which brings out additional flavor); if we just added it directly later it would be a “white roux.”

Add the chicken stock, apple juice, and diced squash. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and cook until the pieces of squash are tender enough to push a fork or spoon through, about 25-30 minutes. Bringing it to a boil can take a while; plan accordingly.

Remove from heat.

Transfer in small batches to the blender, processing each until pureed into a smooth, consistent texture with no lumps. Pour the processed batches into a large bowl and continue until all of the soup has been processed. Take great care doing this step. It is very easy to scald yourself while processing hot liquids. Never fill the blender more than half full, because when you start it up the liquid will push up toward the top of the blender and can overflow. Fit the lid on tightly, cover it with a kitchen towel, and hold the towel and lid down. Start by pulsing on low speed, then increase the speed as the liquid starts to smooth out.

Rinse out the pot and pour the soup back into it. Stir in the cream until well combined, then heat over medium heat until it begins to steam. Don’t let it come back to a boil; if it gets too hot, the cream can add an unpleasant “burnt milk” flavor to the soup.

Remove from heat, stir in the brandy, and season to taste. The brandy is very important; there are flavors in this recipe that need to dissolve in alcohol for us to be able to taste them, and even a small amount of alcohol will allow this to happen. If you don’t believe me, taste the soup before and after adding the brandy.

Serve immediately.

Tips and suggestions:

  • You can substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock to make this a fully vegetarian recipe. However, I’ve never been very satisfied with the result when I’ve done so; the vegetable stock tends to overpower the sweetness of the squash and the apple juice in a way that the chicken stock doesn’t.
  • The curry powder adds a hint of warmth and spice to the recipe, but you can vary the amount and even experiment with adding other spices. Cumin and nutmeg are good options that complement the squash well.
  • If pressed for time, pre-heat the chicken stock and apple juice to just below boiling before adding them to the onion mix; it cuts several minutes off the time it takes to bring it all to a boil. A reason not to do this all of the time is because the outside of the squash pieces will cook more than the inside; starting the liquids at room temperature will help the squash cook more evenly throughout. In the end, it doesn’t make that much difference because as soon as it’s done cooking we’re going to puree it all anyway.

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