It’s officially fall in the South, which means Football Season. While most of my friends (and my husband) jump for joy, I’m like, “Oh great…guess I’ll go to T.J. Maxx…AGAIN.” That being said, I don’t detest football…I just don’t like it as much as T.J. Maxx.
But there’s just so much time a Squirrel can spend wandering the aisles of The Maxx before the workers get nervous. So I have a new “Keep Myself Entertained During Football Season” project: Cooking!
Even though I cook most nights of the week, there are dishes I shy away from due to the extra time they take to prepare. This week’s project: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. I started making this last winter, and I LOVE IT. It’s delicious, but it takes about 15 minutes to show a butternut squash who its daddy is. Don’t be scared. Just man up, grab a big sharp knife (from T.J. Maxx), and follow me. I’ll show you how, step by step.
For the Soup:
1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
2 large carrots
1 yellow onion
1 head of garlic (optional: see note below)
3 tsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
32 oz chicken or vegetable broth (maybe extra)
2 cups milk (maybe extra)
Before You Begin…
First, a note on the quantities here. Plan to have some extra broth. It’s hard to find a squash the exact right size, so you may have to add more liquid to get a consistency you like. Some folks like it thick, some thin. It’s entirely up to you.
Roasting the vegetables is the key to adding rich flavor to this soup. So go ahead and set your oven to 400 degrees before you start chopping.
Conquering the Butternut
Don’t be intimidated by this squashy behemoth. Just think of her as a pale, rather elongated pumpkin that you’re going to peel like an apple. TIP: Poke the squash a few times with a fork and microwave it for 40 seconds. It helps with the peeling.
After you’ve got the peel off, use a big sharp knife to cut the squash in two pieces. You don’t want to split it down the middle yet — unless you’re using a machete, your knife isn’t big enough. Cut it in half horizontally, so you end up with the neck and base, like this:
Now split these puppies in half, remove the seeds (mostly in the base) and cut the squash into cubes (about 1-inch). And now, a journey in pictures…
Sorry, out of pics, but the rest is pretty simple. Peel your carrots, and give them and your onion a very rough chop. You want big chunks so they cook along with your squash. Toss all the veggies in a bowl and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper. Empty onto a cookie sheet, and roast for 45 minutes.
The Garlic Option
If you’d like to add the flavor of roasted garlic to your soup (which I love), simply cut the top of a head of garlic, set it on a piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap it up. It will roast to perfection along with your veggies.
Here is the messy — and to be honest — the somewhat annoying part. Getting your lovely roasted vegetables to a delicious, creamy consistency requires the assistance of a small motor. You can use a regular blender, a stick blender, or a food processor. Here’s a quick review:
This is the least messy option. Start by combining your milk and broth in a large dutch oven over medium heat. When it warms, add half the roasted vegetables (and all garlic, if using) and blend until smooth. Simply add the rest of the veggies and repeat. If the soup is too thick, add more broth or milk. Season to taste. Want to know more about stick blenders…read Matthew’s post here.
Food Processor or Regular Blender
These methods are pretty easy, and result in a smoother texture for the soup. Work in batches, combining half the liquid mixture with half the veggies, blend, pour into dutch oven, then repeat. Heat to simmer then season to taste.
Punching Up the Flavor
If you like exotic flavors, add a tablespoon or two of curry powder to the soup while it’s simmering. I’m not a huge curry fan, but it really works with this soup. You can also use thyme, sage, fennel, smoky paprika — just be sure to use ground spices to preserve the soup’s creamy texture.
And to Top it Off…
Toppings make this soup even more fun. I love toasted walnuts and crunchy bacon, but get creative and see what you can come up with. Barefoot Contessa tops hers with cashews, green onions, banana and coconut. Crazy! The possibilities are endless.
So, if you’re tired of wandering The Maxx in search off the deal of the century, take some time this weekend to give your wallet a break and show a butternut squash who’s boss. 😉
PS: If you’re in the mood for some more soups, here are a few ideas for you. Have a great weekend!