I was happily ensconced with my family over the holidays and we celebrated a wonderful Christmas with way too much food and dare I say too much football?
To help offset the three pounds of butter we used for our dinners, a new historical *low* I might add, I made a healthy lunch of butternut squash soup for Christmas eve.
We have been visiting the local grocery store up here in the country daily, and on Christmas eve, two times. The store was established in 1852 as a stagecoach stop and owned by the family continuously. They have the nicest staff. Since my stepdad shops every day he, and by extension, we are well known. It is expected that you chat with the grocer, the butcher and everyone else. It is the country after all! I was joking with the clerk about the massive butternut squashes they have in the product department, they easily weigh 7 pounds.
“My stepdad called it Junior.” I laughed as I cradled it in my arms, “Junior is going in the soup pot today!”
The clerk told me she had always wanted to cook one but was afraid of trying. I told her how easy it was and that I would write about it for her. So, Carol, this is for you!
I make this soup a lot during squash season and never thought it worth writing about until talking with Carol. I can now see by looking at this giant squash how intimidating it could be to someone. But in reality, once you get the beast cut into half, it is no work at all. The soup is quite basic, albeit delicious, and can be quite versatile flavorwise by adding a few different spices or aromatics.
First off, tackling the large squash: give it a good wash and dry, then lay it down on the cutting board and with your biggest knife cut off the stem. Off with Junior’s head! Then, split it down the middle and use an ice cream scoop to eviscerate the seeds. The oven was already hot at 400 F and I had put some foil on a cookie sheet and spread some oil around. The squash halves got plunked onto the foil cut side down, and into the oven for 45 – 60 minutes.
Meanwhile I did my manicure and watched some (more) football with my stepdad.
An hour later, I took the tray out of the oven and stuck the squash with a fork. The tines slid right through with no resistance. The skin was browned a little here and there and was puckery in places. I returned to watch another quarter of the game while the squash cooled. Piece of cake!
At this juncture you can scrape out the squash into a bowl, add butter and salt and pepper and stir well with a fork and eat. Or, you can use the meat in a variety of other preparations, such as a casserole with pasta and breadcrumbs (and bacon), as a filling with ricotta for ravioli, in the dough for gnocci, or my embarrassingly simple soup. As you can see this squash preparation takes little skill or cooking talent, you just need a bit if courage to cut the huge thing open, then the rest is easy. You can use this method with any kind of squash, including pumpkin. I prefer cooking it cut side down as it ensures the meat stays tender and moist. If you want to have a glazed squash, you can turn it over after 30 minutes, add some butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper and bake for the remaining 15 minutes or so until it is tender.
But back to the soup, in a large pot I put a pat of butter, a chopped onion and some chopped fresh ginger and let that saute until the onion was tender, about 10 minutes. I used a big spoon and scooped the squash out of its skin and added it to the pot.
I went out the garden and cut a sprig of rosemary, and back in the kitchen tossed it in with a bay leaf and a sprinkle of sweet curry powder onto the squash. Everything was topped off with 8 cups of chicken stock, I gave it a vigorous stir and resumed keeping my stepdad company while knitting a sweater in the family room.
I used the immersion blender to smooth it out, this time finally remembering to remove the bay leaf first, and lunch was ready. I dished it out into warm soup bowls and topped each one with a hefty dollop of sour cream as a sprinkle of chives. We were still eating the Funions so I added some along side the soup bowl as well.
We tucked into our hearty soup and listened to the rain ping on the roof. Chatting about this and that, mostly about that, we whiled away the afternoon decorating the house and the tree for Christmas, satiated with good company and good soup.
I hope you give take home a “Junior” of your own this winter for the soup pot.