Recipe: Butternut Squash Soup with Amorelli Croutons

Yes, it does taste as good as it looks...

Yes, it does taste as good as it looks...

Making great soup is a time-consuming endeavor, even though the end-product itself appears to be rather straight-forward. Unfortunately, there is simply no substitute for homemade chicken stock, which means that you’re looking at four hours of simmering just to get this one key component ready. Folks who buy their “broth” from supermarket shelves might as well just open up a can of Campbell’s, as far as I’m concerned. Store-bought chicken broth tastes like water when compared to homemade chicken stock. Plus, that weak-flavored, store-bought broth lacks the overall body of a good chicken stock, which develops gelatin as the chicken bones simmer and begin to break down over time.

Honestly, if you’re going to go through the trouble of making homemade soup, why in the world would you short shrift yourself by half-stepping on one of the main ingredients? Of course, there is a silver lining to spending the requisite four hours to make good chicken stock: aside from creating a more flavorful, nutritionally-sound base for your soup, it also allows plenty of time to take some extra care with the soup’s other components. In the case of butternut squash soup, I like to slow-roast the squash while the chicken stock simmers. In the four hours it takes to prepare a worthwhile chicken stock, you can develop wonderfully concentrated flavors from the butternut squash itself. By simply bringing these two components together in a soup, success is all but guaranteed.

• • •

Ingredients

• Chicken wings, 20 each, or about three pounds

• Large onions, two each

• Peeled carrots, two each

• Celery stalks, two each

• Butternut squash, ten pounds (or two large ones)

• Heavy cream, one pint

• Cinnamon, 2T

• Butter, 2T

• Brown sugar, to taste

Method

1. Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash cut-side up on a baking sheet, sprinkle them liberally with salt, and place them in a 250F oven. The squash will roast four hours, the same time it takes to make the chicken stock.

2. To prepare the chicken stock, place the wings into a large stockpot and rinse thoroughly with cold water to remove excess blood. Once the wings are rinsed, cover them with cold water and simmer them over low heat. Be sure that the chicken stock simmers gently, and does not go into a full rolling boil. A grayish foam will collect on the water’s surface as the stock begins to heat. Skim this foam away as it forms (if the water boils too rapidly, this foam will easily disintegrate and cloud the stock). After the wings have simmered for three hours, quarter one onion and chop the celery and carrot into half-inch pieces. Add the vegetables to the pot and allow them to simmer with the wings for one hour.

3. Once the squash has roasted for four hours, it should be beyond tender. Remove the squash from the oven and allow it to cool slightly. Meanwhile, strain the wings and the vegetables from the stock as you transfer the liquid into another large container. Wash the stockpot, then slice the remaining onion, and add it to the stockpot, along with the butter and the cinnamon. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, until the onion softens.

4. Scoop the flesh from the butternut squash, leaving behind the skin. Add the squash to the stockpot, then add the heavy cream. Mix the onion, squash and cream together thoroughly. Add the chicken stock to the mixture, about one cup at a time, until the soup reaches the desired thickness (my recipe tends to use all of the chicken stock, but it’s always wise to reserve some of the liquid). Using a blender, puree the soup in batches (again, working into another large container), adjusting the final thickness of the soup with the remaining chicken stock.

5. Once all of the soup is pureed, return it to the stock pot, set the heat on low, and adjust it for sweetness and saltiness. It’s worth noting, a little brown sugar can really augment the inherent sweetness in the squash, but too much sugar may cause it to taste like pumpkin pie filling. Personal preference is the key factor, however, and it’s your soup. Along the same line, you can incorporate other spices into the soup, including nutmeg, allspice and clove (again, consider the spice profile of pumpkin pie). For the most part, I prefer to just keep things simple with cinnamon. Sometimes less is more.

6. Upon serving, garnish the soup with mini amorelli cookies, broken pieces of ginger snaps, or spin things in an entirely different direction with a generous dollop of curried mascarpone cheese. Eat.

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