Butternut Squash Soup

butternutsquashsoupYou usually see this around Thanksgiving – it makes a great first course – but it’s also perfect on a cold winter day. I think the most impressed I’ve ever been with this soup was the first time I had it at Spago’s in Beverly Hills. Wolfgang Puck serves his signature soup with a cranberry relish and cardamom infused cream.

I love the taste of cardamom – though a little goes a long way – it definitely adds a new dimension to both sweet and savory dishes. When I make this at home, I skip the relish and cream, but I do garnish the soup with sugar-spiced croutons – a worthy substitution!

Spago’s recipe also uses baked squash that is then pureed, but I opted for the method in Cook’s Illustrated which uses the seeds and fibers to build flavor, then steams the squash in a flavorful liquid.

Butternut Squash Soup

2 ½ - 3 pounds butternut squash (about 1 large), unpeeled, squash halved lengthwise, seeds and stringy fibers scraped with spoon and reserved (about 1/4 cup), and each half cut into quarters

5 tablespoons butter
1 chopped leek (white and pale green parts only)
1/2 small brown onion or 2 shallots, finely diced
1 apple peeled, cored, chopped
2 cups good quality chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
Sugar Spiced Croutons – recipe follows

1. Heat butter in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat until foaming; add leek, onion (or shallots) and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add squash scrapings and seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and butter turns saffron color, about 4 minutes. Add 2 cups broth, 3 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt to Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low, place squash cut-side down and chopped apple in steamer basket, and lower basket into pot.

2. Cover and steam until squash is completely tender, about 30 minutes. Off heat, use tongs to transfer squash to rimmed baking sheet; reserve steaming liquid. When cool enough to handle, use large spoon to scrape flesh from skin into medium bowl; discard skin.

3. Pour reserved steaming liquid through mesh strainer into second bowl; discard solids in strainer. Rinse and dry Dutch oven.

4. In blender, puree squash, apple and reserved liquid in batches, pulsing on low until smooth. Transfer puree to Dutch oven; stir in cream, brown sugar and spices; heat over medium-low heat until hot. Add salt to taste.

5. Serve immediately with Spiced Croutons

Sugar-Spiced Croutons

2 slices white sandwich bread (thick cut)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Remove crusts from bread and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (you should have about 1 1/4 cups). Toss cubes with melted butter. Combine sugar with spices, and toss bread cubes with mixture. Spread cubes in even layer on parchment-lined baking sheet; bake until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. 


James Moore has been a cooking enthusiast since childhood and started blogging as a way to share favorite recipes with friends and family. His site, Cook Like James has grown to include restaurants, cookbooks, wines, and favorite places.