Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

I know I've called cold weather the perfect weather for risotto, but when it comes to January—cold dreary January, with its icy rainy, slushy grey snow, and frozen sidewalks—I think the thing everyone needs in their repertoire is a good soup.

A good soup should be complex in flavor. It should have layers. It can't just taste like soup or just taste like peas, and it can't just be spicy. It needs to have a little something extra so that the tongue doesn't tire of its taste after five or six spoonfuls. A good soup should be filling and most of all, I think a good soup needs to be something that can be shared.

So I share with you this: a spicy butternut squash soup that is rich, but not heavy; slightly sweet, but also spicy enough to warm a person on a January night.

This soup is vaguely related to a recipe I saw here, but really I think they are so different now, they are more like in-laws than blood relatives. This recipe, like all the recipes I post here, is easily adapted to your taste. You can use pumpkin just as easily as butternut squash, but keep in mind that pumpkins are much larger than your average squashes, and so you may need more coconut milk and broth (or water), and perhaps more spices. Also, if you can't find these specific curry powders, feel free to use what you have on hand; curry paste works just fine. I'd recommend starting with no more than 1 teaspoon, and then increasing from there depending on your own preferences.

As for serving the soup, you might have noticed by now that I have a thing for serving my soups in teacups. This is generally because when I make soup, it is part of a larger meal, and I think a teacup serving is the perfect size for an appetizer. But in a bowl or a teacup, it doesn't matter. This soup is elegant and delicious, and can be served with toasted pumpkin seeds, croutons, or caramelized pear slices. I chose to serve it with some Forelle pear slices which I lightly caramelized in a skillet with some salted butter. This soup can also stand alone. Maybe warm up some good bread though, to wipe your bowl clean when you're done, if you're that sort of person. And yes, I do confess, I am that sort of person.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup
1 medium butternut squash
1-2 tablespoons butter
about 1 can chicken stock
about 1 can of coconut milk
1 ½ tsp Madras Curry Powder (yellow)
¾ tsp curry powder mix (Vietnamese “bôt ca ri” made from turmeric, annatto, chili, coriander seed, cloves, fennel, and bay leaf)
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
2-3 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Slice the butternut squash into 3 or 4 sections (leave the skin on!), place on the baking sheet, and butter each slice. Broil on low for about 10-15 minutes before flipping the slices. Butter this side, and then broil for another 10-15 minutes until soft. Alternatively, bake the squash at 375 F for about 35-40 minutes.
Allow the squash to cool for a bit before scooping the flesh into a large pot on medium heat. Add 1 can (about 14 ounces) of coconut milk and 1 can of chicken stock (or alternatively, water or vegetable stock... no worries, I have made this with water and the flavor profile was not at all diminished). Bring to a simmer.
Add the curry powders/paste, cinnamon, ginger, sugar, and salt.
Remove the soup from the heat and either puree with an immersion blender or transfer in batches into a blender. If using a blender, allow the soup to cool a bit, and then cover the top of the blender with a clean kitchen towel, and blend in small batches. Remember to use care when blending hot soups!
Transfer the now smooth soup back to the pot (if you used a blender), turn the heat to medium, and add water or stock a little bit at a time until the soup is your desired consistency. Add additional seasoning to taste.
Serves 6-8 people.

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