Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Easy Peasy Butternut Squash Soup

It's now officially fall and I am going to try and share some recipes for good fall/winter soups that are easy for even an inexperienced cooks. Even if they are easy doesn't mean they have to be bland or just a homemade version of canned or boxed soup. The goal is for soup with intense flavor but that doesn't take hours of kitchen time or a lot of specialized technique and equipment or has a ton of ingredients. One or two main ingredients are all we should need to produce a great soup.  Today we are going to go for an old favorite Creamy  Butternut Squash Soup.
Many of the recipes you come across for butternut squash soup call for roasting the squash in the oven to reduce  moisture and concentrate its flavor and produce some caramelization. Roasting the squash produces a great soup and I do it myself when I have the time but sometimes you just don't have the time or the inclination to heat up the oven and give the squash 45 minutes of time in the oven. You can still produce a soup quickly and with less hassle by using the microwave to precook the squash. What you lose in caramelization and flavor concentration using the microwave you can gain back in how you prepare the soup. The trick is to take the precooked squash and caramelize it in a big Dutch oven or other large pot and then deglaze the pot to capture the fond (brown stuff). This saves a bunch of time and you don't miss out on the added flavor of the oven roasting.  I've chosen to make this version vegetarian but you can substitute low sodium chicken broth for the vegetable broth with no problem.


 2 1/2 - 3 pounds butternut squash , peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks (about 7 - 8 cups)
 1 1/2 cups of finely chopped leek or onion or shallots. (I grow a lot of leeks and I prefer them in soups because of their milder flavor but onions are fine here)
  2 - 3 TBSP  unsalted butter or use extra virgin olive oil (butter is my choice as it help with the browning and if you don't have unsalted butter use salted for goodness sake)
 4 cups vegetable broth (I like the Swanson's low sodium in the box but by all means use home made if you have it)
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 dried bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme or 2 Tsp of dried thyme
Pinch of cayenne or crushed red pepper flakes or a dash of hot sauce- whatever
1 or 2 cups water( if you have extra stock use it instead of the water if you like but the box o' stock has only 4 cups in it)


    1. Place the cut up squash in a microwave safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap (cling film for you Brits), cover, and microwave for about 15 minutes or until paring knife peirces easily through the squash. It sometimes speeds up things if you stir the squash about halfway through the cooking. After cooking you need to transfer the very hot squash to a colander set into a bowl(to catch the cooking liquid) and let it drain on the side for 5 or 10 minutes. Don't throw away the liquid that comes out of the squash! 
    2. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat melt the butter until it foams and then add the squash, leek, and 1 teaspoon salt. Now you are going to recreate the caramelization that you lost from not oven roasting the squash.  Cook the mixture , stirring occasionally, and the squash will begin to break down and a brown fond(brown stuff) will form on the bottom of the pan. All told, this should take about 12 - 15 minutes. We want it browned but not black.
    3. Add 2 cups of broth and  deglaze or scrape  the bottom of the pot to loosen and dissolve fond; once you have all the fond dissolved you can add the rest of the broth (2 cups) as well as the rest of the ingredients including the liquid that drained off the squash but only add about a cup of the water at this point. Crank up the heat and bring this to a simmer and then lower to medium and cook until the onions or leeks are tender which should take no more than 10 minutes or so. 
    4. Remove and discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs( if you used fresh thyme) and using either an immersion blender(my choice) or a regular blender process the soup until it is smooth and velvety. If using a regular blender you will have to do this in batches. Never fill a blender with hot liquid more than half full. Put it all back into the pot and bring back to a simmer. Now you can adjust the thickness (using up to a  cup water) to the desired consistency.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.


It is nice to put a dollop of sour cream or my favorite, Greek yogurt on top of each bowl. A few  croutons add some crunch and even better thinly sliced shallots that have been caramelized to a crisp. This recipe make 6 nice servings and what is even better it keeps in the fridge for a few days like a dream. You can make this a couple of days in advance and just reheat it when ready to serve.

Enjoy! and note that there are really just 3 ingredients- squash, leek or onions and stock. One more that you know how to do this you also just learned how to make pumpkin soup, acorn squash soup, delicata squash soup or any other winter squash soup.


karmanot said...

One of my favorite soups! I add a touch of cumin. The Greek yogurt and crispy onions are a great topping.

fallenmonk said...

Cumin is a great addition as is a bit of curry. I didn't want to confuse the less experienced cooks with too many variables. Should I tell them this works for beets, rutabaga and turnips as well? Hell it even works for sweet potatoes.

karmanot said...

YEP! :)

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