Butternut Squash: Almost Fail

Butternut squash is hard to deal with.  I have vivid memories of the last time I tried to peel and dice one up.  My hands were bruised and broken by the time I was done.  However, it is fall and the wind is blowing outside and I am feeling cozy inside.  My husband and I have been eating seasonal produce with the garden cycles this year.  So it was time for winter squashes and root veggies and things that are very different from all the tomatoes and salads we have been eating all summer long.  My mother-in-law has a lovely recipe for butternut squash soup.  So I decide that to celebrate all this fallness, I am going to make the soup.

However, with the vivid memories of last time still in my head, I decide that I am not dicing up the squash nor the apples.  I will peel them both, but then the cuisinart is going to deal with the rest.  First mistake.  It seemed all well and good – it was still a pain to deal with, but I got everything sliced up.  So I started the cooking: I sauteed the leeks and the butter (the smell of butter cooking is just sooo yummy!).  Then I realized that the pot I was cooking them in was not distributing the heat correctly so the leeks started burning.  I started freaking out a bit.  However, I dive into the leeks with a pair of tongs and start fishing out the burned pieces of leek and add some more butter in.  That should fix things right?  Well it did for the moment.

Then I toss in all the sliced up butternut squash and the apples.  I am supposed to cook both until they are “caramelized” and then add in the chicken broth.  Caramelizing has always been a bit of a mystery me and I have never quite understood the difference between it and just cooking something until it is a bit soft.  At this point I realize that I might have a bit of a problem.  The butternut squash and apples that the cuisinart sliced up is way more than the required measurements of the recipe.  I had thought this wasn’t an issue, but I now realize that I have way too much food matter in the pot and a comparatively small surface to cook it all.  At about this moment, Alex walks into the kitchen.  He looks at my pot and me being slightly disheveled and says,

“Maybe this is a bit much for right now, why don’t we eat something else for dinner and I will put this away for the moment.”

I reply, “No, of course not – I am being stubborn, I am going to finish this soup and feed you some of it for dinner.”  Then I promptly begin to vigorously attempt to stir the contents of the pot, which is kinda hard.  I stir for a bit longer and Alex and I go back and forth as to whether I should be doing this or not.  Finally he wins, I realize that I am exhausted from a particularly hard workout that morning and I haven’t really eaten enough during the day so I am starving.  He directs me to Sophie’s bed and instructs me to lay down with her and he will get us some dinner.  Then he makes us some lovely boca burgers.

The good news is that today I approach the big pot in the fridge with a new take on it.  I have decided that the squash and apples are going back into the cuisinart and I will use the blade to pulse them into smaller pieces.  This worked quite well and I have soup cooling on the stove for tonight’s dinner with some pumpkin ravioli and a light pumpkin cream sauce.

Here’s the recipe if you decide you want to chop things!

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

2 T. unsalted butter

1 ½ c. sliced leek, white and pale green parts only

1 T minced garlic

6 c. peeled and roughly diced butternut squash

3 cups peeled and roughly diced apples

6 ½ c. chicken stock

Sea salt, preferably gray salt

1 c. chopped spiced candied walnuts

Met the butter in a large pot over moderate heat and cook until it turns nut brown.  Add the leeks and sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and sauté briefly to release its fragrance.  Add the squash and the apples, raise the heat to high, and cook stirring, until the vegetables begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes.    Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer and cover partially.  Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook until the squash and apples are tender, about 40 minutes.  Transfer in batches to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Return to the pot, reheat to serving temperature, and season with salt.  Garnish the soup with the walnuts when serving.

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