I got into making squash soups years and years ago now when my mom, my sister, and I made a butternut squash soup adorned with cheddar-chutney toasts for Thanksgiving one time. I got the hook bad. Squash soup is now one of the many reasons I love Thanksgiving, it's also one of the reasons I'm always mystified when I encounter people who dislike Thanksgiving Day food. "It's a celebration of the harvest," I always think. "What's not to like?" I'm sure we've mentioned this before, but Michelle and I are so fond of Thanksgiving we make a point of celebrating it twice every year: once for Canadian Thanksgiving and once for our expat Americans' Thanksgiving. I make a whole variety of winter squash-based dishes these days, including pasta dishes, couscous dishes, and curries, but the biggest showstopper of them all is still the winter squash soup--they're so versatile that you can really be creative with them--and I regularly turn back to that original winter squash soup as a model. Tonight I used a squash I'd never tried before--a beautiful ambercup squash that we got at Jean Talon Market a couple of weeks ago (you can see it in the lower left of the picture above) --and even though it had something in common with the butternut squash, it had a depth I'd never encountered before. I guess the moral of the story is: there's still all kinds of lovely local yet exotic winter squashes out there, so branch out and get beyond the butternut and the acorn squashes.
Squash & Apple Soup
1 medium-large ambercup squash
1 tbsp canola oil
2 onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 apples, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp herbes salées (optional)
1 tbsp crème fraîche + enough crème fraîche to use as garnish
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
special equipment: immersion blender
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Cut your squash in half and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until flesh is tender. Meanwhile, heat your oil in a pot over medium heat, add your onions, turn down the heat, and sauté your onions over medium-low heat until they begin to caramelize, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic and apples and sauté for another 5-10 minutes. Scoop out the flesh of the squash, add it to the pot, and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add just enough water to cover the ingredients, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Take the soup off the heat and use your immersion blender to create a smooth purée. Return the soup to low heat, add the herbes salées, the salt, and the pepper, seasoning to taste. Add the tablespoon of crème fraîche and whisk it into the soup. Serve in bowls, drizzling each bowl of soup with more crème fraîche before serving. You can also add 3-4 croutons to each bowl, if you like.
Serves 4-6, depending on whether you serve it as a starter or as a main course
Note: I've been known to do versions of this soup with sherry, brandy, cognac, bourbon, and calvados. Like I said, your winter squash is very versatile.
Tonight's finished product:
Just a salad, some bread, and some wine was all that was needed to complete the meal.