Friday, November 26, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup with Cream & Spiced Nuts


Today, as most Americans are recovering from a massive food hangover, I will be preparing and serving a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

With the help of my good friend Victoria, and a glass of wine or three, we will serve an entire turkey dinner from my closet-sized kitchen, equipped with two gas burners and a counter top oven.

The key to ensuring this dinner goes off without a hitch has been major planning and plenty of advance prep work. Anything and everything that could be made in advance is sitting, neatly labeled in my half-sized refrigerator.


This soup whipped up beautifully a few days before our actual feast. The recipe yielded more soup than I expected, so I simply froze half for the bitter winter days ahead.

To elevate the soup just a bit for serving, I will add a drizzle of heavy cream and a pinch of spiced nuts, which conveniently can also be made ahead of time.

Now that I am armed with a beautiful appetizer, I can focus my attention on more important matters, like praying the brining bag does not explode all over the refrigerator.

Butternut Squash Soup
adapted from Big Sur Bakery Cookbook
makes 4 quarts

2 large butternut squash, about 5 pounds total
1/4 cup olive oil
3 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 small serrano chile, roughly chopped
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
Kosher salt
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock, plus more if needed
Freshly ground black pepper
Heavy cream, for serving
Spiced nuts (recipe below), for serving

Preparation Instructions
Make the Soup: Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Cut them in half with a sharp knife, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and cut the flesh into 1-inch pieces. Set aside.

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and drizzle in the olive oil. Add the onions and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, garlic, and chile; saute until the vegetables begin to caramelize, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the squash and cook for 10 minutes. Then add the potatoes, season with 2 tablespoons kosher salt, and cover with the stock. Let the soup simmer over medium heat for 40 to 45 minutes, until the vegetables are very soft. The puree the soup in a blender or food processor [note: an immersion blender would work perfectly here] until smooth.

Return the pureed soup to the pot and check the consistency: the soup should be smooth and thick, but not as thick as baby food. If it is too thick, thin it out with additional chicken stock. If it is too thin, let the soup reduce over medium-low heat until it thickens to the desired consistency. Check the seasoning, and add pepper and more salt if necessary. Keep warm over very low heat until ready to serve.

To Serve: Pour the soup into individual soup bowls. Garnish each portion with a bit of heavy cream and a teaspoon of spiced nuts.

Spiced Nuts
from Dolcetto Confections | Allison M. Veinote
makes about 1 cup

1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup pecans
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preparation Instructions
Toast nuts in a skillet over medium heat until golden and fragrant. Remove from heat. Toast spices in skillet until fragrant. Remove spices from heat and combine with toasted nuts.

Grind toasted nuts and spices in food processor until just broken-up.

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