Every Thanksgiving, my family heads up to beautiful wine country to spend the holiday with my uncle, aunt, and cousin. I only ate butternut squash soup once a year at Thanksgiving, and it was one of my favorites. It wasn’t until I was in my early teens that I took an interest in cooking and I asked my aunt how she made the soup. She let me in on a little secret –it was from Dean & Deluca!
As I got older and started contributing to the Thanksgiving meal, I always offer to make butternut squash soup, going on almost 10 years now. It’s amazing how simple it is to make with the option for many, many variations.
The biggest take-away I learned is that using homemade stock is critical. It is still delicious if you use water, coconut milk, or bouillon, but using homemade stock adds complexity and body to the soup that is hard to mimic with only vegetables.
I am overdue for a post about a homemade stock, but my quick method is the following: throw a chicken carcass or 1 lb of chicken bones into an Instant Pot, along with an onion, 1 celery stalk, 1 carrot, 1 head of garlic, and 1 dried red chile (optional). Fill the Instant Pot with water, and pressure cook for 1 hour. After it cools, strain out the liquid and discard the rest. Voila! You now have beautiful bone broth to add to soup, risotto, stews, or anything else you like.
The other important thing is to roast the butternut squash. Roasting the squash, instead of boiling or steaming it, adds caramelization (aka FLAVOR) to the soup. This just takes it to the next level.
I didn’t add extra spices to this recipe (because I didn’t have any on hand) but you can add fresh thyme, rosemary, or sage to the butternut squash before it goes into the oven.
1 large butternut squash, or 2 small (about 4 pounds)
~4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 yellow onions, sliced
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
Salt and pepper
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
Optional: 1 tbsp of an additional herb like thyme, rosemary, or sage
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the skin from the butternut squash. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and then widthwise. Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and set seeds aside. Cut the squash into roughly 1-inch cubes and add to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of salt, and lots of fresh ground pepper. Add to a large baking pan and spread the squash evenly.
Throw in the oven and bake for 45 – 1 hour. The cooking time depends on the temperature of your oven, how large the pan is, etc. I cook the squash until it caramelizes, which adds a lot of flavor to the soup.
Once the squash has caramelized, remove it from the oven, and set aside. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large dutch oven over medium heat. Once the oil is warm, add the onions and garlic.
Cook, stirring frequently until the onions have taken on color.
Add the butternut squash to the Dutch oven and stir to combine with the onions.
Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Once the stock is boiling, bring down to a simmer, and leave for 10 minutes to let the flavors combine. After 10 minutes of simmering, remove from heat and let cool.
After the soup has cooled, using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend the soup until smooth. This usually takes a few minutes, you want to blend until it is silky smooth.
Taste the soup and check for seasonings. It may need salt and/or pepper. If you like a little heat, add some red pepper. If you want an herbaceous note, add some thyme or rosemary. You can also go a sweeter route and add cinnamon, nutmeg, or clove.
When ready to serve, heat a small pan over high heat, and add the pumpkin seeds. Toast the seeds until lightly brown (no more than one minute), and add a sprinkle to each bowl.