Tuesday, January 10, 2012

farmhouse butternut squash soup

By Julie

Butternut squash soup is one of the easiest and best soups ever. Broth, squash, salt. It could be that simple. But what the heck would be the point of posting something like that. Instead, there is this moderately more fancy version that I like to make but that is still totally easy. It feels a little more rustic and has more complex flavors. Just a bit of tartness from a Granny Smith apple and a tid of apple cider vinegar. Oh, and then there's nutmeg just to pull out the sweetness in case you were worried it would get buried with the apple and vinegar.
Did you realize that it's December?? This means that each and every day I try to do something Christmas-y. (Un)fortunately, several of these activities will be cookie and pie-centric. It just has to happen. I ate so much winter fruit crisp at Thanksgiving that I was kind of hoping I'd get sweets out of my system, but in actuality it created a sweets monster. Total monster. I want to kill it, but Christmas is telling it to make pies and cookies. Basically, I want to create an edible version of marthastewart.com. So, having a soup like this around is a good thing, because what's the point of eating a full, real meal if you're just going to stuff yourself with dessert after. Dammit. I'm hosed.
Some other non-fattening activities I have in the queue are chopping down a Christmas tree in the mountains (one of the greatest activities there could be), making paper snowflakes (Joe always makes ethnically themed ones that he names, like Aztec Temple), watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (which I've never seen because my mom apparently couldn't stomach its hokeyness when I was growing up), dressing up the kitties in Mr. and Mrs. Claus outfits (duh), and putting Christmas lights on the outside of our little house like real grownups. I suppose I should squeeze in purchasing Christmas presents at some point. Bleh maybe I can just give away all of the cookies that I'm going to make, since it would be embarrassing how quickly they'd disappear if I kept them here.
Feel free to play around with this soup - using an onion for the shallots, more or less garlic, another veggie - like a sweet potato for fun? - or whatever you see fit. I think it's pretty great, but like I said, butternut squash is such a perfect ingredient for a soup that you can't really screw it up. Crumbled bacon on top is pretty indispensable, though. If you can keep yourself from not eating all of it while the vegetables are boiling. I managed to save one slice for my soup. Whoops.
farmhouse butternut squash soup
adapted from Gourmet, serves about 6

4 slices of bacon
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
2 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 3 fresh sprigs
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1. Cook bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat until crisp. Remove and set bacon aside.

2. Add garlic, shallots, and caraway seeds to fat in pot and cook, stirring occasionally, about 1-2 minutes.

3. Add squash, carrots, apple, thyme, bay leaves, nutmeg, broth, water and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste - be careful if your broth is salted, otherwise I'd say about a teaspoon or so of salt. Simmer, uncovered, until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs (if you used sprigs).

4. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup. If you don't have one, purée in blender, in batches if needed. Season again with salt and pepper to taste, and stir in vinegar. Adjust the nutmeg amount too. It's a strong spice, but if you like it, add more!

Serve topped with crumbled bacon, if you didn't already eat it. Then save room for the cookies that I'll be sending you.

This was originally posted at my blog, the crankin' kitchen!

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