Sunday, November 6, 2011
Thanksgiving dinner: Butternut squash bisque
I love Thanksgiving dinner. No, I mean I really love it. It has always been my favorite meal of the year, and I've actually always insisted on the exact same meal for Christmas, just so I can eat it again (although I am trying to branch out a little more to honor my hubby's preferences). I love turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie, apple pie, green bean casserole...and I really love leftovers.
So when Phyl, host of our pumpkin dinner a few weeks ago, offered (with maybe a little pressure?) ;) to host a virtual Thanksgiving dinner, I was so excited! So excited, in fact, that when he asked us to pick a menu item, I just couldn't decide; I love them all! I went back and forth (our famous mashed potatoes? my dad's awesome sausage wild rice stuffing? my mother-in-law's pumpkin pie? my mom's yummy turkey?) until finally all of the categories had been taken by others and I was left with........soup. Which we've never served at Thanksgiving dinner. Hm.
Luckily, Phyl recently sent several of us a great new Thanksgiving cookbook, so I started paging through...and came across butternut squash bisque. Now, I've mentioned our abundance of squash on more than one occasion; clearly, this soup was meant to be.
The recipe states that the soup can be made up to three days ahead of time, so I made the soup on Monday night and served it on Wednesday. It was easy to make, delicately-flavored, and delicious! It's one of those soups that feels creamy and indulgent, but actually only has a small amount of cream, with much of the texture imparted from the squash itself. I thought the garnish of fried sage leaves and popcorn seemed a little fussy, but they actually only took a few minutes to pull together and they really added something special to the final product; I'd definitely include them again.
Butternut squash bisque
from The New Thanksgiving Table by Diane Morgan
for the soup
2 pounds butternut squash (I used a 4.5 pound squash and used half for the soup, which ended up being about 2 pounds of puree)
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 large granny smith apples, halved and cored
4 cups chicken broth (DM recommends homemade stock, but gives the alternative of canned low-sodium broth, which is what I used)
1/2 c heavy cream
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (I probably used closer to 1/2 tsp)
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper (the recipe actually says "salt and pepper to taste" but that drives me crazy; I need a starting point. I used 1/2 tsp of each, which seemed close to perfect, and then I sprinkled just a tiny pinch more)
for the garnish
3/4 c oil (I used safflower)
1/3 c fresh sage leaves
popcorn (DM suggests a mini bag of microwave popcorn, but we never have that in the house; I just had hubby make me a small batch of air-popped)
1. Preheat the oven to 350º.
2. Peel and cube the squash into 2" pieces. Toss with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread in a single layer on a jelly roll pan. Place the apples, cut side down, on the sheet. Roast for 30 - 35 minutes or until the squash and apples are tender. (I didn't read this until too late, and roasted the squash the way I always do: peeled it, sliced it in half, took out the innards, and roasted the halve on a buttered piece of foil for about 2 hours. I added the apples when there were 30 minutes left on the timer.)
3. Purée the squash and apple (without the skins) in a food processor until smooth. Add 1 cup stock and process until smooth.
4. In a large (4-quart) saucepan, whisk the squash/apple mixture, the rest of the chicken stock, the cream, the nutmeg, and the sugar. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Make the garnish: heat the oil in an 8" sauté pan until it reaches 365º. Fry half the sage leaves for 5 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon, and place on a paper-towel-lined plate. Then fry the second half.
6. To serve: ladle the soup into bowls or mugs and garnish with the sage leaves and popcorn.
Be sure to check Phyl's site later this week for the rest of this yummy Thanksgiving meal!