For me, cold weather is an invitation to do two things. First, to light a fire in the parlor; and next, to bask in its glow while consuming butternut squash soup. Not just any butternut squash soup, mind you, but a princely concoction I adapted from an old Williams-Sonoma cookbook. Here it is:
Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry and Thyme
1 butternut squash, about 3 pounds, halved lengthwise; fibers and seeds removed
6 slices bacon, chopped
2 large yellow onons, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons dry sherry
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Optional: Fresh sage, thyme, or rosemary for garnish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a baking pan, place the squash cut sides down. Add water to the pan to a depth of 1/4 inch. Bake until the squash is tender, about one hour.Remove from the oven and let cool. Using a spoon, scrape the flesh from the skin. You will need 3 3/4 cups for this soup.
In either a Dutch oven or a large heavy saucepan set over medium heat, saute the bacon until the fat is rendered, about three minutes. Add the onions and chopped or dried thyme and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Transfer the onion mixture to a food processor fitted with the metal blade or to a blender. In 2 or more batches, add the squash and puree until perfectly smooth.
Return the puree to the saucepan. Place over medium low heat and mix in the 5 cups stock, the sherry, and the cream. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes to blend the flavors. Stir in the cayenne pepper and season to taste with salt and black pepper. If the soup is too thick, thin with additional stock to desired consistency. Ladle into individual bowls and garnish with fresh sage, thyme, or rosemary, if desired. Serve hot. Serves 8 to 10.
You can, of course, make this soup days in advance. Simply omit the cream and sherry until you’re ready for the final heating.
Herby, bacony, and comforting — Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry & Thyme is not just a soup…it’s an experience!
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