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Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Holidays Series: Butternut Squash Soup with Roasted Potatoes and Brown Butter

The planning has begun! With Christmas a little more than one month away, I am beginning to look for inspiration as to what to serve, not just for the big family events but also for the in-between meals when it's just us or when we have a few impromptu guests.   I love the Holidays and with age I have learned to let myself enjoy it rather that get overwhelmed by everything that needs to be done.  Thankfully, I also have great helpers now (who are also amazing cooks).  With some great Christmas music (our favourite is the Céline Dion Christmas Album) we can spend hours together working, laughing and just enjoying being together.

So here we go:  This first recipe can be used as a wonderful starter or lunch.  You can make the soup ahead of time and freeze it.  The potatoes can be cooked just before serving and the whole thing can be thrown together easily.  It's also vegetarian - and can be Vegan if you omit the brown butter (but honestly this is what makes it taste so good and gives it that special nutty flavour).  You can also use the same idea with stacked sautéed mushrooms.

Note:  If ever you freeze puréed vegetable soups and they separate once thawed, just use a plunging hand mixer or blender to re-emulsify before heating - not to worry!

For the Butternut Squash Soup:

You will need: You can easily serve 20 with this recipe!

  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 1.3kg - 2.8lbs), sliced in half
  • 4 tbsp of olive, grape seed or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion (about 100g - 3.5oz), large dice
  • 1 large leek, white and light green part only, sliced (250g -8oz), 
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut in large cubes
  • 1.6 litres (7 cups) of water
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1 tsp of dried thyme)
  • 2 tsps of salted herbs (or plain salt if you do not have)
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) of maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp (15ml)  of seasoned rice vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F);
  2. Drizzle the oil (2 tbsp- 30ml) over the cut side of the butternut squash and rub over evenly with your hands;
  3. Place the squash, cut side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in the centre of your oven until very tender (when sharp knife inserted to the thickest part of the neck of the squash offers no resistance), about 1 hour;
  4. While the squash is cooking, put 2tbsp (30ml) of oil in a large pot over medium heat;
  5. Add the diced onion (1 medium) and sliced leek (1 large - 250g) and cook to soften for 5 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent colouring;
  6. Add cubed potato (1 large) and water (7 cups - 1.6 litres), bay leaf (1 large) and sprigs of thyme (5 or 1 tsp dried) and bring to light boil.  Cook for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender;
  7. Once the squash is cooked, remove it from oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes;
  8. Remove the bay leave and spoon the flesh of the squash (you can add the seeds but not the peel) into the pot with the vegetables and simmer for 10 minutes to allow the flavours to blend;
  9. Using a plunging hand mixer or blender, blend the soup until smooth;
  10. Pour the soup into a sieve or chinois and press down with a ladle to help press the liquid through.  Discard any remaining solids;
  11. Return the soup to the pot and add salted herbs (2 tbsp), maple syrup (1tbsp - 15ml), seasoned rice vinegar (1tbsp - 15ml);
  12. Taste and season additionally if required.

For the Roasted Potato Stacks

You will need: 4 four portions

  • 6 small gourmet white potatoes (or red if you prefer), washed, sliced evenly (discard or save the ends to make mashed potatoes or home fries)
  • 2 tbsps (30ml) of duck fat or oil
  • salt and fresh thyme sprigs

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (350°F);
  2. Place the duck fat or oil (2tsps - 30ml) in a baking sheet with raised sides;
  3. Heat in the oven for 5 minutes;
  4. Remove the hot baking sheet and makes sure the fat/oil covers the bottom evenly;
  5. Place the potato slices in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and thyme leaves;
  6. Turn the potato slices over and bake in the bottom part of the oven until tender (about 10 minutes);
  7. Remove from oven and place the slices on a paper towel to absorb excess fat;
  8. When you are ready to serve, stack the potatoes in the centre of a soup dish and gently ladle in the soup;
  9. Drizzle with brown butter and chopped chives if you have.
And finally, for the Brown Butter

You will need:  this will be for more than 4 portions but you can keep extra in the fridge and gently reheat.
  1. 1/2 stick (4tbsps - 60g) of salted butter
  • Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat;
  • Watch the butter closely as it will begin to brown and can burn quickly;
  • Once the butter reaches the golden brown colour (and smells wonderful), remove it from heat and place bottom of pot in cold water to stop the cooking process;
  • Remove the white foam gently, stir and serve over the soup;

A few notes to help explain:

  • Roasting the butternut squash allows the natural sugars to caramelize and adds a lot of flavour;
  • You can replace the fresh thyme on the potatoes with a small flat parsley leaf or herb of your choice - it sticks to the potato once cooked and is beautiful;
  • Used stacked potatoes like this with other meal presentations, i.e. eggs, meats, fish, etc.
  • You can use this soup as a sauce for fish:  just ladle into a deep dish, add vegetables of your choice (like roasted fennel, leeks, potatoes, etc.) and lay the fish on top;
  • You can top baked or mashed potatoes with brown butter for wonderful flavour;

 Smile of the Day: