The New Basics
Back in July, we got a note from Margie, a reader who's been with us since nearly the beginning.
For years we've traded emails back and forth, with recipe recommendations and tips and such.
Margie doesn't live far from us, and this year she had a little gardening adventure, planting Marina del Chioggia squash.
Turns out Margie's squash were extremely productive. So at the end of August, Margie asked if we'd like to have one. Would we? Of course! Margie's daughter kindly dropped off a big ol' winter squash on our doorstep so we could play around with it.
Big is the operative word here. Here's a look at the squash itself. Want to guess how much it weighs?
It is a hunk of squash. A mammoth much larger than your head. Big, gnarled, and let's face it: not cute. But in its own way, it's a thing of beauty.
We let our squash age for about a month while we waited for cooler temperatures and inspiration to strike.
While we were thinking about the squash's fate, we were chatting with our friend Bobby, a truly excellent and adventurous cook. The subject of the squash came up, and Bobby shared his all-time favorite recipe for Baked Winter Squash Soup, from The New Basics, by the authors of The Silver Palate Cookbook. Bobby's recommendation was more than enough for us, so we made a plan: roast all of the squash, make soup with a portion of it, and stow the rest in the freezer for use this winter.
Roasting squash of this size is no small feat. It had to go into the oven in a few batches. There was only so much of it we could fit into the oven at one time. Still, it roasted wonderfully and smelled fantastic.
This is a somewhat straightforward take on squash soup, but we loved the balance. The vegetables -- squash, carrots and onion -- are all pan-roasted at the beginning, which makes for a richer flavor. The only other ingredients are stock and spices. There's no milk or cream in the soup itself, but the recipe recommends the addition of crème fraîche (and chives) as a garnish, and we heartily second those recommendations.
We went ahead and made a huge batch of this Winter Squash Soup, so now our freezer is stocked both with soup as well as chunks of roasted squash.
So that's 1/4 of the squash down, many more pounds (and squash adventures) to go....
Thank you so much, Margie! We'll think of you and your garden all winter long.
Makes 12 portions
Note from Zach and Clay: Given that we were dealing with one huge winter squash, we didn't make this recipe exactly as described below, but we're confident that it will give you a fantastic winter soup to enjoy.
2 acorn squash (about 2 pounds each)
2 butternut squash (about 2 pounds each)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
8 teaspoons dark brown sugar
3 carrots, peeled and halved
1 large onion, thinly sliced
10 cups chicken stock
3/4 teaspoon ground mace
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
Creme fraiche, for garnish
Snipped fresh chives, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the four squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds.
Place the squash halves, skin side down, in a shallow roasting pan. Place 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar in the cavity of each squash half. Arrange the carrots and onion slices around the squash. Pour 2 cups of the stock in the pan, cover it tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 2 hours.
Remove the pan from the oven, and allow the vegetables to cool slightly. Scoop the squash pulp out of the skins, and place it in a soup pot. Add the carrots, onions, and the cooking liquid.
Add the remaining 8 cups chicken stock and the mace, ginger, cayenne, and salt. Stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and summer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
Puree the soup, in batches, in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return it to the pot, adjust the seasoning, and heat through. Serve each portion garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche and a sprinkling of chives.