Cooking Class with Chef Ivan Flowers – Lesson 46 Butternut Squash Soup

Last class I taught you how to take on recipe and use it for five different meals. I really hope that you came up with some of your own spins on it. This week I’ve got Thanksgiving on my mind. It really is one of my favorite holidays. Why wouldn’t it be? It revolves around food! So I thought I would share a recipe that would make an ideal starter or side for your Thanksgiving table, butternut squash soup. I love this soup; it has a rich, velvety texture and a slightly nutty, slightly sweet flavor. This soup is not only great on Thanksgiving, but it is also a perfect dinner option on cold winter nights.

When choosing butternut squash for this recipe, look for unblemished skin that is firm to the touch and know the deeper orange the flesh, the sweeter the squash. Also, know that you can save the seeds, roast them and then use them to top the soup! So, let’s get cooking!
This recipe will serve six to eight people.

For it you will need: vegetable peeler, large spoon, two large saucepans, blender, three pounds butternut squash (peeled and seeded), ¾ pounds unsalted butter, salt, pepper, four tablespoons canola oil, ½ cup diced sweet onion, ½ cup diced carrot, one cup diced celery, three quarts homemade or low sodium chicken or vegetable stock, two cups heavy cream and one cup chardonnay.

The first thing to do is peel and seed the squash. Peel it first, and then cut it lengthwise down the center. Remove the seeds with a large spoon (remember, you can save and roast them if you wish) and then cut into one inch cubes.

Next, chop all the rest of your veggies.

Now, in a large saucepan, over medium heat, add in ½ pounds of the unsalted butter and the canola oil. Once butter is melted, lower heat to low and add in all the veggies, including the squash. You want to slowly cook them until they are caramelized and soft. This will take about 30 minutes. You cook the squash this way instead of boiling because this pan roasting results in a much sweeter, deeper flavor.

Once veggies are cooked, deglaze the pan with the chardonnay. Pour in the wine and stir. Remember, deglazing is when you use a liquid to get all of that wonderful flavor that has developed on the bottom of the pan during the cooking process. Cook this for four minutes. Now add in the heavy cream and stir again. Keeping the heat on low and the pan uncovered, cook until liquid is reduced by half.
Once reduced, you will start to blend the soup. Please be careful when blending hot liquids, they can explode out of the top of the blender and you can get burned. So start with just half of the liquid in the blender. Pulse the blender until you have a creamy, smooth consistency. Now add in the second half of the liquid and while pulsing, add in the remaining ¼ pound of unsalted butter. Add this butter in as ¼ inch pats. You do this because adding some butter when blending creates a fabulous unctuousness to the soup. Now put the blended soup in a new saucepan and salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it! To keep it warm, simply cover the pot and put over very low heat, stirring occasionally.

A lot of the fun of this soup is how you top it. I like to top it with roasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of crème fraiche. But go wild; there are so many ways to top it. Some crumbled cornbread would be delicious. Or how about a little maple syrup (the real stuff, please) and some cinnamon dusted croutons. Some crumbled bacon is also nice. Think about some diced apples and dried, sweetened cranberries. The sky is the limit here and know that the toppings you choose will slightly change the flavor of the soup. So if you want to emphasize the sweetness of the squash, go with fruit, syrup, etc. If you want to bring out the nuttiness, top with savory flavors.
If you are not going to use this as a starter/side for Thanksgiving, make it a meal with a simple green salad, some nice crusty bread and I like a glass of champagne. Now, experiment and make this soup your own. Have fun and remember, as with any technique or recipe, the most important component is the cook’s heart. The heart is what helps you create delicious meals you’ll never forget.

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