This recipe of creamy, rich, and divinely flavorful butternut squash soup is adopted from Thomas Keller’s original recipe for New York Times, with a few modifications of my own. The reason why I decided to post it in my blog dedicated exclusively to Eastern European and “Soviet” cuisines is two-fold. First, squash is widely used in Eastern European cooking, and squash and pumpkin soups are all-time favorites in my family. Second, out of dozens of recipes of squash soups that I have tried, this one was a revelation. Combining three types of onions with sweet butternut squash creates a perfect balance between umami and dessert-like sweetness, and garlic adds a pop of character and depth.
Another note – if you have a bit of time and enough enthusiasm, please make your own vegetable broth, fresh and with good ingredients. Double my broth recipe, if you wish, and make enough to cook this delicious squash soup twice. Just freeze whatever you don’t use and I promise that you will be grateful to have this liquid gold handy next time you need it!
Active time: 1 hour | Total time: 3 hours | Serves: 6
For vegetable broth:
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery, coarsely chopped
Trimmings from squash plus seeds
4 springs parsley
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
8 cups filtered water
For squash soup:
1 3-to-3 1/2-pound butternut squash
2 tbsp olive oil
Few leaves of sage
Salt and black pepper
1 cup thinly sliced leeks
½ cup thinly sliced carrots
½ cup thinly sliced shallots
½ cup thinly sliced onions
6 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tbsp honey
Bouquet Garni (8 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs parsley, 2 bay leaves and 1/2 tsp black peppercorns)
¼ cup crème fraîche
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Prepare the squash for cooking. First, cut the neck off the squash and set it aside. Cut the bulb in half and scoop out and discard seeds. Then, using a paring knife, peel away the skin from the neck of the squash until you reach the bright orange flesh. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces.
Make the vegetable broth. Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add onions, carrots, celery, squash trimmings, garlic, and herbs and spices and saute for 7-10 minutes. The more you brown the vegetables, the richer and darker the broth will be. Add water and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, uncovered.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (≈175°C). Brush each half of the bulb prepared in step 1 inside and out with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the olive oil. Sprinkle the cavities with salt and pepper and tuck sage leaves into each. Place cut-side-down on the baking sheet and roast until completely tender, about 1 hour. Remove the squash from the oven and let cool, then scoop out and reserve the flesh (discard sage).
Put the remaining olive oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat, add the leeks, carrots, shallots and onions and cook, stirring often, for about 6 minutes. Add the diced squash from the neck, garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook gently for 3 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to keep the garlic and squash from coloring. Stir in the honey and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and bouquet garni, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the roasted squash and simmer for 30 more minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the bouquet garni. Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches, and purée. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.
Serve hot with a scoop of crème fraîche, sprinkle with nutmeg and parsley.