Thursday, November 24, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup with Three Types of Sweet Potato


Joyous thanksgiving. Let us use today as another reminder to focus on the things we are thankful for now (my friend Erica, over at Kinds of Honey is particularly good at finding small moments of beauty in the everyday and she reminds me, through her blog posts to be a more grateful and gracious person, something I am quite thankful for) and, at some future point, discuss the problems with celebrating Thanksgiving.

This dish was born out of a mini-dinner party, and a request for butternut squash stew. E wanted a chunky soup (more like a stew), with veggies--and I'm not one to stay no to veggies! When we went to the grocery store, we picked up sweet potatoes, three varieties, to add color, texture, and taste to the soup. We also decided to add carrots (because I always, always have carrots around). This is an easy, moderately low-fuss soup and could easily be made for Thanksgiving if you're prowling for a last minute idea!

At our grocery store, we actually had more than three types of sweet potato to choose from, plus yams. But we went with a white-fleshed, white-skinned sweet potato (O'Henry), a garnet sweet potato, and a Japanese sweet potato. For the soup, I cut these into moderately large bite-size chunks and scrubbed but didn't peel them, since all of the sweet potatoes were organic). If you can't find three types of sweet potato in your local markets, don't worry about it. Just buy three medium sized sweet potatoes and go with it. 
 
For the butternut squash: organic, canned butternut squash puree has been ridiculously inexpensive at my grocery store for several weeks now, so that's primarily what we used. But, I also had a butternut squash I wanted to roast up anyway, so we used about 1 pound of freshly oven-roasted butternut squash in the soup and I save the rest of the meat for another meal. I roasted the butternut squash while I cleaned, walked the dog, and was waiting for the bread to rise appropriately.

Pureeing about half the veggies you use lends to a thicker soup (you could also use less water, but with big chunky veggies, I think this looks weird and the flavor is pretty strongly "autumn" anyway). This is easier with an immersion blender, but could also work in a food processor or a regular blender. If you use one of these methods, please let the soup cool sufficiently so you don't scald yourself, or cause a lid to blow off from heat!

While I worked on the soup, E set a lovely table. She was excited about the opportunity to have a real dinner party, complete with a local wine, and a properly set table. And, truth be told, I felt excited about it too. She arranged my winter squashes and pie pumpkin around a piece of tableware from her family, and then we lit a lovely "holiday" scented candle.

The recipe I based this on actually uses shallot instead of onion, so if you've got easy access to that, I encourage you to use shallots . E and I didn't have shallots on hand and operate on a pretty limited grocery budget. If you wanted to make this vegan, you could use olive oil in place of butter, and coconut milk (perhaps 3/4 cup) in place of the whipping cream.

Butternut Squash Soup with Three Types of Sweet Potato
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 large onion, chopped fine

1 White sweet potato, with white skin (O'Henry), chopped
1 Garnet sweet potato, chopped
1 Japanese sweet potato (red skin with white flesh), chopped
3 medium carrots, sliced into coins
1 small apple (I used three large crab apples)

3 pounds butternut squash puree (see my notes above about this)

8 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons lemon juice

½ cup heavy cream, scant

Melt the butter in a large soup pan, over medium heat. Add the onion and saute 1-2 minutes, until the onion begins to wilt. 
Stir in the chopped sweet potatoes and carrot coins. Cook 5-7 minutes, stirring infrequently, so the potatoes will begin to caramelize. Add the apple and cook another 3 minutes. 

Add the butternut squash puree and 4 cups of water. Bring to simmer and cook 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Use an immersion blender to puree about 1/2 the chunky vegetables. Return to the heat and add remaining 4 cups of water. Bring to a simmer again. Stir in the salt, brown sugar, nutmeg, and lemon juice. Cook until all the vegetables are tender (to your liking; I like them with a little crunch the first day so they're not complete mush the second day).

Stir in the heavy cream. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot. 

Serves 4-6

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