Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon, Sherry, and Thyme
This is the soup I serve every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Course: First course, Main Course
A heavy soup pot or Dutch oven that will hold at least 5 quarts
1 large (3 1/2 - 4lb) butternut squash, peeled and cubed
8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into pieces
2 large yellow or white onions, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus grinds of black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (triple the amount for fresh leaves)
5 cups low- or no-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup medium-dry ("Amontillado") sherry
1/3 cup heavy cream
Center the oven rack and preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the squash pieces on a large baking sheet, drizzle them with a little olive oil, and toss to coat. Roast in the preheated oven until fork-tender and lightly colored -- about 40 minutes.
While the squash is roasting, put the chopped bacon in the pot or Dutch oven. Cook slowly over low heat until fat is rendered -- about 8 minutes. Stir in the onion, salt, pepper, and thyme. Cover the pot, and cook gently until the onion is soft but not colored -- about 20 minutes.
Tip the bacon mixture and 1 cup of the stock into the jar of an electric blender. Blender at high speed until perfectly smooth -- about 30 seconds. Quickly wash out and dry the soup pot. Return the pureed bacon mixture to the clean pot.
Pour the cooked squash and 1 cup of the stock to the blender, and blend until smooth -- about 30 seconds. Add the pureed squash to the pot, along with the remaining stock, the sherry, and the cream. Bring to a boil over high heat. Then immediately reduce the heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Taste carefully for seasonings -- you might like to add more salt.
If you are not going to serve the soup right away, let it cool, uncovered, to room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. The soup's flavor will only improve after it has been chilled and reheated.