I have a thing about ordering certain dishes in restaurants for which I know the effort to prepare them is minimal. Beets fall into that category as does what I made tonight, butternut squash soup. This is one of those dishes that is not only ridiculously easy to make but it is a forgiving canvas on which to experiment. You can add different types of squash to the mix, or potatoes, pretty much anything earthy.
As you no doubt are aware, Halloween was a few days ago and pumpkins are in abundance. My youngest son came home with a small pumpkin and it was a shame to throw it in the compost bin. While I was cutting the butternut squash I decided to give the pumpkin a try.
The other ingredients that are essential for this soup are granny smith apples, which have the effect of brightening the soup, and a yellow onion for all the goodness that onions bring to food. Lastly, let’s talk about spices because nutmeg is a spice that brings this soup to its full glory but if you use ground nutmeg you will no doubt miss out on this wonderful flavor. Certain spices and herbs are best experienced whole and when you use a pre-ground version you can’t help but notice the flavor is flat. Peppercorns are this way, ground pepper never tastes as wonderful as fresh ground… and whole nutmeg is aromatic beyond your imagination compared to a jar of ground nutmeg.
1 whole butternut squash
1 small pumpkin, approximately 7″ in diameter (use acorn squash as a substitute)
1 large yellow onion
2 granny smith apples
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup milk
1 whole nutmeg
The process for making this soup starts with roasting the squash, pumpkin, apples and onions. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
I cut the butternut squash in half, down the long axis, and drizzle with olive oil before seasoning with salt and pepper. Lay the squash halves on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cut side down. Do the same to the pumpkin, the one I used was about 7″ in diameter. Cut the onion into large chunks and spread on baking sheet. Peel the apples, core them and cut into chunks, spread on baking sheet.
Some recipes call for peeling the squash and cutting it in chunks to bake. Honestly, it doesn’t matter how you do it, the result will be the same but I will say that the cutting into chunks method does cook faster.
Bake the squash, pumpkin, onion, and apples for approximately one hour. The time is just a guideline. When you can poke a knife in the squash with no resistance, the squash is done. Remove from the oven and let cool. Use a spoon to scoop out the squash and pumpkin, discarding the skin (compost!). Add squash and pumpkin flesh to a blender or food processor along with the apples and onion. Add the chicken stock and blend thoroughly.
Transfer to a large pot and heat to a soft boil. Many traditional recipes call for adding heavy cream or half-and-half, and while I love the texture and flavor that heavy cream brings, I prefer to stick with low-fat options for everyday meals. Save the cream for competition food when small servings have to deliver out-sized flavor. Add the milk and stir, remove from heat. Grate the whole nutmeg using a microplane grater, I would go with half of a whole nutmeg. Salt to taste, I would recommend holding back on the pepper as it is not needed.
I plate this with some roasted pumpkin seeds. The wine we enjoyed with this soup was perfect for the pairing, 2013 Eric Forest Pouilly-Fuisse ‘L’Ame Forest.