I made this soup for a fundraiser at work, a Soup,Chili, and Bakesale to help a local foodbank. It was so popular it sold out in the first 15 minutes of the sale! I was super excited when I heard how much people had liked it. So I thought, I've got some people who really want the recipe—why not put up the step by step on my blog? So here, my peace offering for keeping away so long.
The Zombie Cooks
Large Dutch Oven
Spoon for seeding
1 butternut squash (around 1-2 lbs)
1 apple (I suggest a type that is tart and good for sauce-making, because we want it to break down)
3 parsnips (or a 1lb bag)
2 large carrots
1 large sweet onion
2-3 celery stalks
Chicken stock to cover (I used about 4 cups) home-made is preffered
1 cup Half-and-half
1 tsp dried thyme (if using fresh remember to use more!)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Nutmeg (fresh only!)
Cayenne Pepper (optional and to taste)
Sour Cream to top for serving
1) In large dutch oven melt 2 tblsp butter over medium low. Add 1 tblsp oil to prevent burning. Chop onion and celery, add to pan to sweat.
2) Peel and remove seeds from butternut squash. I always suggest getting one from your local farm. Why? Well the cost for butternut squash in season at the grocery store is around $1.29 per lb. At your local farm store? $0.69 per lb. This really can be a great cheap, healthy meal for those on a budget. Not sure how to go about peeling and seeding? Here's a video from Good Housekeeping to help. I find using a pumpkin spoon or melon spoon (one that has a serrated edge of some kind) much easier when removing seeds and pulp.
3) Chop squash into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces. Measurement doesn't really matter as long as they are all around the same size for even cooking. Add to pot and let soften.
4) Peel and chop carrots, add to pot.
5) Parsnips: You may be tempted—because a parsnip looks just like a white carrot—to peel it like a carrot. Some recipes even tell you to peel them. DON'T DO IT! All peeling a parsnip does is get rid of all the sweet, vitamin rich skin (don't believe me? Ask Alton Brown) and you're left with the woody interior while you throw the best part (the part you really paid for) down the disposal.
Wash your parsnips, like you would a potato. Once washed, trim the ends and chop. Add to the pot.
6) Core apple, remove skin and chop. You want a firm apple for this, again something best bought at a local farm store or orchard. Why? Cost again is the main factor, but more than that you are garunteed freshness and a local orchard will be able to provide the home cook with greater variety to choose from. Many farm stores have descriptions and suggested uses for each apple type, but if not ask which apple's are tart and best for things like apple sauce.
7) Salt and Pepper as you cook. I like to add salt and pepper at each stage of the process to create the greatest depth of flavor. This is something you should really apply to every meal you cook (except dessert).
8) Allow vegetables to soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. You should start to see the squash and apple breaking down. If it gets too dry at the bottom of the pot, add another tblsp of butter. If veggies start browning, turn down the heat.
9) Once veggies have softened add Chicken Stock. Liquid should come about an inch above the veggies. Home-made stock is, of course, preferred, but sometimes we're too busy to make it. Carton stock or broth works just fine, though I'd suggest the low sodium kind. Or if you want to get really economical, I use Better Than Bouillon, a sort of bouillon paste you add warm water to. Not as much salt as the cubes, with the ability to control the flavor concentration. Vegetable stock or bouillon paste will also work to make this dish completely vegetarian!
10) Add bay leaf, thyme, and another round of salt and pepper, tasting as you go.. Grate about 1 tsp fresh nutmeg into soup—a little goes a long way. Why is fresh so important? If you've ever watched Good Eats with Alton Brown, you know. Whole nutmegs can keep nearly forever, while the pre-ground stuff ends up tasting like sawdust after a few months. Once you taste fresh nutmeg, you'll never go back! Bring soup to a boil, then lower heat to allow it to simmer for 30 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
11) Remove soup from heat, add half-and-half, stirring while you add.
12) Allow soup to sit off the heat to cool for 10 minutes, then add a spoonful or two at a time to your blender. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a large bowl or tupperware for serving/preserving. Repeat until all is blended smooth. At this point you want to taste, add salt and pepper if needed. If you want to add cayenne now is the time. Even if you don't like things spicy (which I admit, I don't) a 1/2 tsp of cayenne will add another level to this soup. The heat from the spice warms up the sweetness, making it more savory. For an added touch, grate a little more nutmeg on top just before serving. People will be begging for your secret to that nutty flavor.
13) Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream, or freeze and reheat on a cold, rainy night.
Picture copyright Dan Goldberg, Sunset 2006 (Jalapeño-Ginger Butternut Squash Soup)
Found at myrecipes.com