Pho - Vietnamese Soup

Pho - Vietnamese Soup
One of our favorite dishes - Pho

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

If you love butternut squash soup you will appreciate this recipe.  I made this for Halloween night and it made the house smell divine.  This soup has complex flavors, with a little heat and a lot of sweet.  The squash and toasted spice mixture took some time to make, but now that I have extra spice mix, it will be much easier to make next time.  

Don't toss out the seeds from the squash.  After scraping them out, I rinsed them, dried them on paper towels, tossed them with about a 1 teaspoon or so of butter, sprinkled them with a tiny bit of the rub, then roasted them in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Tasty on their own or sprinkled on the soup. 

I have to admit I'm not a big fan because the soup is a little too sweet for my liking.  When making again I will use a little less molasses to help cut down on the sweetness.  Cassidy who loves anything made with pumpkin or squash can't wait for me to make this again.  Overall, though, a great recipe that received rave reviews from family and friends who gobbled this rich soup up on a cold Halloween night.

This recipe is adapted from Michael Chiarello's.  Be sure and check out Michael's serving  suggestions after the roasted squash recipe.  

2 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup (1/4-inch) diced onion
1/4 cup (1/4-inch) diced celery
1/4 cup (1/4-inch) diced carrot
1 cinnamon stick
Sea salt, preferably gray salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1/2 tsp ground toasted coriander, optional
1 1/2 cups Roasted Winter Squash (recipe follows)
1/2 cup half-and-half, optional
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, optional
2 TBSP toasted pumpkin seeds, optional

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and cinnamon stick and saute until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken stock and the coriander, if using, and bring to a boil. Simmer for several minutes. Stir in the squash until smooth, then simmer gently to let the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. (The soup can be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for several days or frozen for about 1 month. It will thicken as it cools and may need thinning with stock or water when reheating.)

Return the soup to the pan and reheat gently. Add the half-and-half, if using. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm until service.

To serve:

Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish evenly, with the cheese and pumpkin or squash seeds, if desired.

Roasted Winter Squash:

About 3 pounds butternut squash (preferably 1 large squash)
Gray salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup dark unsulfured molasses
2 teaspoons Toasted Spice Rub (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Halve lengthwise, discard the seeds, then cut into 1-inch dice. Place in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter ceases to foam and has turned a light brown, pull the pan off the heat and immediately add the sage, sugar, vinegar (stand back so as not to get splattered), molasses and toasted spice rub. Mix well and let simmer over medium-low heat for 1 to 2 minutes to meld the flavors.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the squash and toss well, then transfer to a heavy rimmed baking sheet or baking dish large enough to hold the squash in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast, tossing at least once, until very tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm, so the liquids are runny.

Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the warm squash and all the cooking liquids to a food processor and process until smooth. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months.

Serving suggestions: Serve the puree on its own as a side dish for roast chicken, turkey, or pork; stir into polenta just before the end of cooking; use as a stuffing for ravioli; make into a soup; or use to flavor pastina. Or omit the sage, season with ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg to taste, and use as a substitute for canned pumpkin in your favorite pumpkin pie recipe.

Variation for Smoky Butternut Squash: Cook the prepared squash on a baking sheet in a covered grill with soaked chips to give a slightly smoky taste. Substitute in any of the recipes that call for roasted squash. If cooking kabocha, acorn, or other difficult-to-peel squash, cut in half, scoop out the seeds, and rub the insides and cut edges with the vinegar/molasses mixture. Place on a baking sheet, cut sides up, and roast at 400 degrees F until tender. Scoop out and puree.

Yield: about 2 cups puree

Toasted Spice Rub:

1/4 cup fennel seeds
1 TBSP coriander seeds
1 TBSP peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup (1-ounce) pure California chili powder
2 TBSP kosher salt
2 TBSP ground cinnamon

Toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns in a small, heavy pan over medium heat. When the fennel turns light brown, work quickly. Turn on the exhaust fan, add the red pepper flakes, and toss, toss, toss, always under the fan. Immediately turn the spice mixture out onto a plate to cool.

Put mixture into a blender with the chili powder, salt, and cinnamon and blend until the spices are evenly ground. If you have a small spice mill or a coffee grinder dedicated to grinding spices, grind only the fennel, coriander, pepper, and chili flakes. Pour into a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Keep the spice mix in a glass jar in a cool, dry place, or freeze.

Chef's notes: Toasting freshens spices, releases their oils, and makes them more fragrant, as well as adding a new dimension of flavor.

Taste your chili powder before adding and, if spicy and hot, cut back the amount. California chilies are almost sweet, not hot.

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