Saturday, October 8, 2011

Apple Butternut Squash Soup [Rhonda]

Degree of difficulty: medium (peeling the butternut squash takes a little patience)
Time: 20 minutes to prep, 35 minutes to simmer and puree
Serves: 4 to 6

Judging by the typeface and the yellowed paper, I clipped this from a Sunday New York Times Magazine sometime in the early '80s. It's such a perfect soup for autumn, particularly Thanksgiving, with its pretty orangy color and hint of apple. The chopped scallions give it a little kick of green. (You know how I am about garnish! A great garnish, like a sensational pair of shoes, can turn mediocre into magnificent in a hurry. Not that this soup is mediocre. Not by a long shot.)

It freezes well, so a big batch will carry you for a while (or as a starter for a big crowd at the holidays), and it can be made a day or two ahead of the big feast--the flavors develop more fully with an overnight rest in the fridge.

Apple Butternut Squash Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil, or peanut or canola oil
1 two-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 McIntosh apple (I used Granny Smith because it's all I had)
1 large onion (or 2 small), peeled and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder (I use at least twice that)
3/4 teaspoon ground mace (I usually don't have this on hand. OK, never.)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 bay leaf, optional
1/4 cup cider (recipe calls for more but it makes it really sweet)
1 quart homemade chicken stock (I've always used canned stock for this--great results)
1/2 cup half-and-half (or heavy cream--just use less)
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 cup finely minced scallions for garnish

Heat oil in large stockpot over medium heat.

Add the squash, apples and onion, stir, saute uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, or until onion is transparent.

Stir in the mace, curry and cardamom, and bay leaf, if using, and continue cooking until the onion begins to brown.

Add the cider. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 3 minutes. Add the stock, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer the mixture for another 35 minutes, or until squash is tender.

Transfer mixture to a food processor bowl and process until soup is smooth, then return to stockpot and reduce by about one-fourth. Stir occasionally.

Stir in the half-and-half, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Pour into warmed bowls (I have not trained myself to remember to warm soup bowls, but it's a great idea) and sprinkle the scallions over the top.

Suggested soundtrack: Vivaldi's "Four Seasons: Danza Pastorale (Autumn)"

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