Butternut Squash Soup

From Cook's Illustrated | September/October 2011

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Why this recipe works:

For soup with intense squash flavor, many recipes will roast the squash to rid it of excess moisture and concentrate its flavor. But what if you don’t want to turn the oven on? For our soup, we start by microwaving large chunks of squash to hasten the cooking process. We then slowly… read more

For soup with intense squash flavor, many recipes will roast the squash to rid it of excess moisture and concentrate its flavor. But what if you don’t want to turn the oven on? For our soup, we start by microwaving large chunks of squash to hasten the cooking process. We then slowly caramelized the parcooked squash in a Dutch oven, much as we do with onion for French Onion Soup, until a thick brown fond developed. Deglazing the pot and scraping up the fond gave the soup the deep flavor of roasted squash soup in a fraction of the time. To further enhance the soup’s vegetable flavor, we chose vegetable broth over chicken broth and used an aromatic base of leeks, fresh thyme, and bay leaf.

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Butternut Squash Soup

Forget cream and spices. The secret to squashier squash soup is concentration.

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Serves 6 to 8

Do not use prepeeled squash in this recipe. Our favorite vegetable broth is Swanson Vegetable broth. Low-sodium chicken broth can be substituted for the vegetable broth. If you use a blender to puree the soup, fill the jar two-thirds full-not more-and process in batches. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to puree the soup right in the pot. In addition to sour cream, serve the soup with Fried Leeks (related), which provide nice textural contrast.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks (about 7 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 leek, white and green parts only, quartered lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 - 2 cups water
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • Sour cream

Instructions

  1. 1. Place squash in bowl, cover, and microwave until paring knife glides easily through flesh, 14 to 18 minutes, stirring halfway through. Carefully transfer squash to colander set in bowl (squash will be very hot) and drain for 5 minutes; reserve liquid.

    2. Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add squash, leek, and 1 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until squash pieces begin to break down and brown fond forms in bottom of pot, 10 to 13 minutes.

    3. Add 2 cups broth and scrape bottom of pot to loosen and dissolve fond. Add remaining 2 cups broth, reserved squash liquid, 1 cup water, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, and cayenne. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until leeks are fully tender, 6 to 7 minutes.

    4. Remove and discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Working in batches, process soup in blender until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Return soup to clean pot and bring to simmer, thinning with up to 1 cup water to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve with dollop of sour cream. (Soup can be made up to 2 days in advance.)

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