Monday, March 17, 2008

Butternut Squash Soup With Crisp Shallots

"Irene," you will say upon careful reading of the title of this post, "honey, baby, sweetums. Look outside - the sun is shining, the birds and the bees are frolicking and the thermometer has finally crawled up above 60 degrees. What's with the winter vegetable?!" You would be right, of course, but the heart wants what it wants, and my heart wanted squash. And I try not to argue with myself too often - it gets very confusing, if you know what I mean.

Besides, when I was a wee little girl and I hadn't yet figured out that eating vegetables was uncool, my mom roasted squash and then mixed its earthy, rich, slightly smoky innards with a little butter and salt, and I still associate the sweet aroma of roasted squash with childhood and the comfort of my mother's apron-clad embrace.

I think food is funny that way, in terms of how our formative years shape our tastes and preferences for the rest of our lives. I still can't pass by the squash section at the market without stopping for a moment to give their smooth bottoms a surreptitious pat, and in the autumn, I try to roast everything in sight. A., on the other hand, whose mom clearly didn't think much of the pumpkin family, is completely indifferent to any of those vegetables unless they are smothered in sugar and made into a pie. Go figure.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you like squash and its other cousins, this soup will tip you over to the other side of heaven. But if the only pumpkin you've ever had was in pumpkin cheesecake, you might just want to halve the recipe. Even if you are at this moment shaking your head doubtfully and saying, "Squash soup? I really don't know about that...", you will want to make this if only for the awesome cuteness that are the sour cream hearts. Even the most food-cynical and jaded among us will want to take a swipe at these babies with our spoons.

Butternut Squash Soup With Crisp Shallots and Sour Cream Hearts
(Adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Bride and Groom cookbook)
1 butternut squash
1 med. yellow onion, chopped
2 shallots, and butter for frying
2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup of milk
2 tbsp of sour cream
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the squash in half (lengthwise) and brush the cut sides with a little olive oil. Arrange in an oven-proof dish and roast for 1 - 1.5 hrs. Check every 10 min after the hour mark because depending on your oven, it could take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. The flesh of the squash should be soft and pliable. After it's done roasting, let it cool for 20 minutes. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Then, scoop the flesh out into a bowl.

While the squash is cooling off, chop a medium yellow onion and then sauté in 1 tbsp of butter until soft but not colored (about 5 min). Set onions aside. Thinly slice the shallots and sauté in another 1 tbsp of butter until shallots become soft and are light brown (about 10 min). Spread the shallots thinly over a paper towel; they will crisp up once dried.

In a blender or a food processor, combine 1 cup stock, 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 of the onions and 1/2 of the roasted squash and process until very smooth. Pour the mixture into a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan. Do the same thing with the other half of the ingredients and also pour into the sauce pan. At this time, you can add more broth or milk to get the desired consistency. Over medium-low heat, bring the soup to a simmer and season it with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for a couple of minutes until hot and the seasoning is incorporated, then distribute among soup bowls.

Mix the sour cream in a small bowl until very smooth. If you are using thick sour cream (like I did), you can thin it out with a teaspoon or two of warm water. Drop five pea-sized dollops of sour cream in a circle, about an inch apart, on top of the soup. Take a knife and swirl it so that it goes through each dollop of sour cream (that'll give it the heart shape). I had to... erm... get rid of the evidence of several failed attempts, so don't worry if it doesn't work out the first time. Put a pinch of crisp shallots in the middle (not obscuring the hearts, clearly, duh). Voila! This makes about 4 bowls of soup.


Aran said...

Guess what I just had for lunch, no joke, butternut squash soup! It was delicious and this looks even better!

Irene said...

You know, it's really funny -- the more I'm around food bloggers, the more I realize that a lot of us get the same craving at the same time. Weird, right?! I made blueberry muffins yesterday and I saw at least three other blogs on my daily round that had also made blueberry muffins... It's some weird psychic food connection, lol.

Heather said...

I love butternut squash soup. I've made a version similar before. I'll have to try yours next!