Saturday, March 22, 2008

When Winter Won't Leave

Yesterday was Good Friday and it snowed! (This will make it very hard to wear white linen for Easter.) What better time to write about the Saturday I spent making soup? Roasted butternut squash soup is always a favorite. I had some sweet potatoes on hand and I wanted to see what I could do with those and some corn. The result was fabulous. It's now on my list of favorites too.

Roasted butternut squash soup first. My version is a combination of three different recipes from Cook's Illustrated, Williams-Sonoma and the Food Network. Preheat the oven to 350-400. Grab a baking sheet, ice cream scoop, rubber mallet and cleaver. Oh yeah. Get some squash too.

If you have an easier way of dismantling hard squash, let me know! Here's the deal. Apparently I'm a wuss. I struggle to open jars and occasionally a water bottle or two. I've heard of people being able to tear through hard squash with a chef's knife. I look at my Shun and think, "No damn way." I value my knife and my fingers, although not necessarily in that order.

Anyway, use the cleaver to slice a thin piece off the bottom of the squash to make sure the squash has a secure base. Stand the squash up on a kitchen towel. Split it in half using the mallet and cleaver. Use the ice cream scoop to remove the seeds and membrane. Save both.
Place the halves cut side down on the baking sheet. Use a Silpat or foil to make cleaning up easier. Roast until tender.In the meantime, drizzle a little olive oil into your soup pot. Add a few sage leaves and heat the oil.
Add the seeds and the membrane.
I like to give the seeds and membrane a head start before I add the onion. I don't know why. Saute until the onion is tender.
Add chicken stock. You can make this with veggie stock or water. I prefer the chicken stock. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer.
Remove the solids. I just dump the contents of the pot into a strainer. Add the stock back to your pot.
By now the squash should be done. Grab the ice cream scoop again and dig out the flesh. Add the squash to the pot. Now whip out your immersion blender. I named mine Frenzy. Don't have one? Add the squash to a blender and ladle in some broth. Either way, process until smooth. Put the soup back into the pot and simmer.
Now here is where you can get more creative. You can add heavy cream to the pot now for a richer soup. When serving, you can garnish each bowl with chopped pecans and/or fried sage.
Now for the sweet potato corn soup. Start by infusing some olive oil with sage, just like the roasted butternut squash soup. Add onion and saute.

All I had in the house was frozen corn. I dumped it (still frozen) into the pot.

Moving on to the sweet potatoes. Pierce the sweet potatoes a knife and roast until tender.

Remove the skin and mash immediately. Throw it in with the now thawed corn and very soft onion. Add chicken stock. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Simmer.
Once the flavors meld, puree. Again, the immersion blender rocks.
Strain the soup. (I don't like the corn bits.) I finish the soup with cream. Adjust the seasonings. I throw in a pinch of sugar. When I dish it up into bowls, I add a little bit of brandy.
Yeah. It's good.

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