Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter Soups: Apple Butternut Squash

I'd much rather buy decorations and party favors for a party than cook for it. But that whole culinary dilemma doesn't stop me from inviting everyone to my virtual potluck this winter where guests bring soup. 

I'm glad you stopped by this week because Valarie Olson brought her yummy, creamy Apple Butternut Squash. When Valarie shows up at your house, she's going to bring food. Probably in her cute little striped basket so that it's all neat and orderly--like she's the star of her own cooking show, The Portable Chef. Valarie is joyful in the kitchen, and it rubs off. I suspect she possesses a magic spice she sprinkles in her food to make you believe you can cook, too.  Valarie doesn't have a blog, but she is one of the most talented people I know.  She's a writer, photographer, musician, yoga instructor, military wife, and all-around super mom and friend. Plus, she grinds her own wheat to make bread, ya'll.


Meet Valarie:

Before we get down to the nitty gritty, here are a few fun facts about this post: 

Just because I'm Brandi's friend doesn't mean that's why she asked me to blog about this soup.


A few months ago we hosted Brandi and her sweet family for a carve-a-pumpkin soup-bar night. There's probably a more clever title, but when you eat a variety of soups and carve pumpkins...

I walked everyone through the kitchen, introducing the evening's menu, and Brandi walked over to the crockpot of butternut squash soup, inhaled, and smiled. It took me a few moments to bring her back. Yes, it is butternut squash soup. Yes, I made it. Yes, I have the recipe. BFF's right there.

Apparently years ago, Brandi had tasted and fallen in love with a William's Sonoma butternut squash soup. Ever since then she'd been searching for the recipe. Destiny brought me and my little soup recipe to Tahlequah, and Brandi and her little family to our home that night.

I must say, this soup is also near and dear to my heart. Come with me to New Year's Eve 2007.

A friend of mine hosted a decadent evening to celebrate the coming year. Four couples, a seven course meal, and all evening to celebrate (sans kids).  We all contributed to the meal and prepared gourmet dishes we'd (never serve our kids but) always wanted to try.

We. ate. for. six. hours. Six divine hours filled with appetizers, soup, salad, a palate cleanser, entree, another palate cleanser and dessert. I met and fell in love with Apple Butternut Squash Soup.

Apple Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium butternut squash, washed
1 large golden delicious apple, peeled and cubed
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 T sugar (optional)
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c heavy cream

Forget all you've ever learned, read or observed about butternut squash preparation. Allow me to introduce you to a method I discovered through running the gauntlet of thick skin and slimy seeds: roasting.

Turn oven to 350 degrees. Score the squash all over with your butcher knife. (For effect, yell ha-yah!)  These slits provide an escape for air when cooking. Place the squash in a 9x13 glass casserole pan and fill with water 1 1/2 inches deep. Cover with foil and place in oven.

All ovens are different, but cook for about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours. Check periodically and add more water if needed. You're looking for your squash to "give" when you squeeze it. You want it soft.

Remove from oven, set aside.

In a large pan or stockpot on medium heat, combine apple, chicken broth, applesauce, sugar (FYI I've never added sugar), ginger and salt.

Back to the squash. On a cutting board by your garbage can (using an oven mitt if needed), slice the ever-so-soft squash in half from top to bottom.
Scoop out seeds with a large spoon and toss effortlessly in the garbage. Gently scoop out the squash and place in the soup mixture.

Do you realize what you've just done? You put the oven to work for you. You didn't have to worry about slicing your finger trying to peel the thick skin; or concern yourself with an accidental slip off the hard-as-a-rock squash in your attempt to cut it into 1" cubes. Instead, you had an hour+ to yourself (except for when you were checking to make sure the water hadn't all evaporated, right?) while your squash roasted. And roasting, my friends, brings out the flavor in any vegetable. Proven fact. I think everyone should have the experience of roasting a tough, ornery butternut squash and scooping it out of its skin lickety-split.

Special Trick
Let me let you in on a little secret. Butternut squash also comes PRE-CUBED. Yes, I've seen it with my own eyes. You can even stash these in your FREEZER and throw them directly in with your soup mixture. Now, that's efficient delegation folks.

Bring the soup mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally, mashing the apples, admiring its deep, rich color. If you're fancy, you'll pull out your immersion blender and stir to a smooth consistency. If you're like me, you'll carefully, but bravely, transfer the steaming soup to your Ninja blender and mix to a smooth consistency.

Last but not least, add 1/2 cup heavy cream. You may try to leave this out (as I did once), but trust me. Just add the cream. Or for presentation, swirl (warmed) cream into each bowl of soup. 

At this point your kitchen smells like...New Year's Eve, 2007; or a picture perfect William's Sonoma kitchen where you are seated, served and not required to wash one single, solitary dish.

Inhale, exhale. Repeat. And then do your dishes.




Apple Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium butternut squash, washed
1 large golden delicious apple, peeled and cubed
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 T sugar (optional)
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Score squash, place in glass casserole pan with 1 1/2” water (continue adding water if necessary) and roast for about 1-1/2 hours or until soft. Remove squash from oven, let cool.

Combine apples, applesauce, sugar, ginger and salt in a large pot. Slice roasted squash lengthwise, remove and discard seeds and scoop squash into large pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, simmer for 15 minutes. At this point you can begin to mash against the side of the pot. Add the cream, simmer for another 10-15 minutes. Stirring/mashing occasionally until you reach your desired consistency. (You can follow up with a blender if you want a smoother texture.)

Serve with crusty bread or a roll.

10 comments:

  1. I will soon try some Valarie magic in my kitchen with a butternut squash- feeling empowered :) Get your blog on Valarie we all want more!

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    1. You're so right, Lisa. Valarie should totally get her "blog on." :)

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  2. I have to try this. It sounds delicious.

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  3. WOW. I'm ready to be adopted by Valarie now.

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  4. Yum--and even better with the pre-cut squash shortcut! I love a smart homemade dinner that can be easily assembled with fresh and convenience products. :)

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    1. I agree. I like having some fresh ingredients combined with the easy stuff so that I feel as if I'm making a home-cooked meal.

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  5. I went to the store this very afternoon to buy the ingredients for this soup. I love butternut squash soup but have only made it once because I HATE cutting up and peeling the squash.Thanks for the tip for roasting it, Valarie. Pure genius.
    Btw, also bought the ingredients to make my THIRD pot of easy crockpot chili. I'm loving this potluck series, Brandi, and it works great with my Weight Watchers program!

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    1. Dee Dee, I'm so delighted you're enjoying the recipes. Thanks for letting me know. I am lucky to have so many friends who are good cooks. :)

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