Ain't Yo Mama's Butternut Squash Soup!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'll be honest with you here. I'm not the biggest fan of butternut squash. All squash frankly. I find them bland. And I like flavor. So I developed this butternut squash soup recipe that has a lot of flavor. I mean, a lot of flavor. I'm not using a lot of ingredients, but I am using powerful ones. Bacon offers both flavor and fat which gives another background layer of flavor (you'll see what I mean in the recipe), and sage is a power-punch of fall that works perfectly with both the squash and bacon. I'm warning you thought: this is not a bland soup. If you like your butternut squash soup bland, this is not for you. Pass. If you like bold flavors, then giddyup y'all!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon and Sage
1 butternut squash
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
3 strips applewood smoked bacon, chopped small
1 white onion, chopped small
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh sage, finely chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme (or fresh)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Wash the butternut squash and dry with a paper towel. Cut off both ends, then very carefully split the squash in half length-wise. Scoop out the seeds and stringy part and discard them. Lay the butternut squash down on the baking sheet, skin side down. Brush with olive oil all over and season generously with salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast for 45 minute to an hour or until squash is very easily pierced by a fork.

Once squash is cooked, remove and set aside. Prepare the base of the soup.

Place the bacon in a pot. No need to add oil or anything because the bacon will render it's own fat. Cook bacon on  medium heat until golden and crispy and fat has been rendered, about 8 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside for garnish later. Pour out some of the bacon fat and leave about a tablespoon's worth left in the pot. Add the onions all at once and season with a small pinch of salt and some pepper to taste (remember: the bacon is naturally salty so don't kill it by adding the normal amount of salt! Taste before you add!). Cook onions on medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. You'll find the water naturally found in the onions will come out; use that bit of moisture to help pick up the "brown bits" left on the bottom of the pot from the bacon. This is going to help you flavor your soup!

Once onions are softened, add the garlic, half of the sage (reserving the rest for garnish), and thyme and combine. Cook another minute or so until garlic is fragrant. Remove from heat.

Scoop out the butternut squash from the skin using a spoon and place directly into the pot with the onions. Use a wooden spoon to help mash it up and incorporate it into the soup. Place the pot back on the burner on medium heat and add the stock. Crank the heat up to high and mix the squash and onion mixture into the stock, melting and incorporating it all together. Once boiling, reduce and continue to cook another 10 minutes so flavors can meld together.

Now it's time to puree the soup. Take the soup off the heat. If using an immersion blender, carefully blend the soup until creamy consistency is achieved. If pureeing in a blender or food processor, then transfer the soup in batches (it'll take you 3-4 for this) and puree until smooth. Return to a new pot if using the blender/food processor; leave it in the same pot obviously if using the immersion blender. Taste and adjust soup with salt and pepper if needed.

To serve, simply garnish with the bacon pieces and some chopped sage.

My Notes:
For added creaminess and richness, you can add cream at the end as well. This soup is quite creamy on its own, so it really doesn't need the added calories but if you feel like being luxurious, then go for it!

Bacon can also be substituted with pancetta. I actually like the applewood smoked bacon for this because the applewood gives the soup a hint of sweetness to balance out the salty smokiness of the bacon. If that's not your thing and you'd rather have a pulled back bacon flavor, then use pancetta -- it's salted pork that hasn't been smoked so you won't get that "bacony" flavor but still get the crunchy topping and background salty goodness.

Go easy with sage. Sage is extremely potent when used fresh. Big time. Shockingly, moreso than rosemary in my opinion. It's not forgiving and won't go away like thyme or chive; it will linger and beat your ass if you use too much. Always better to start off small and if you want more, then add it chopped fresh at the end. You want butternut squash soup, not sage soup!

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