Butternut Soup with Hints of Apple & Curry - No. 159
Or a blast of flavor. It’s up to you. And how to roast butternut squash slices in a cast iron skillet
I’M ALWAYS LOOKING FOR A FESTIVE SOUP to simmer on Halloween night, and while I love the idea of pumpkin soup, this one is far more delicious.
In fact, you might call butternut squash the most sensible of the winter squash family. It might not have the sculpted beauty of the acorn or the charm of the pumpkin, but it feeds people and packs some vitamin A, too. Unlike those cute little baking pumpkins, the butternut has a ton of flesh inside. And its velvety texture blends into soups, breads, and cakes.
Which means you can cook—or bake—with a butternut just as you would pumpkin or even a sweet potato. Today I’m sharing a soup that can be made a day or two in advance and benefits from the time in the fridge for the flavors to develop. And I’m also sharing a way of roasting butternut slices in a cast iron skillet for maximum flavor.
Before the torrid, dry summer of 2022, my garden cranked out butternut squash in its own corner. Give the plants enough space for their vines to wander, good sunlight, and sufficient water to keep the soil moist, and they thrive. I’ve cooked with my homegrown butternut and with store-bought, and about the only difference I noticed was that the skin on my garden squash was more tender. Oh, and the store-bought were always larger!
Which is handy because butternut is a part of my fall dinner rotation. I roast and cube it onto salads, and fold it into vegetable soup (talking about that this Thursday in an Open Thread!) Not only is the winter squash family more present in my recipes as the weather cools, but it’s made for the simmered and roasted meals that taste so good right now.
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Butternut back in time
Just don’t go look for butternut squash in America’s culinary history prior to the 1940s. That was about the time a farmer named Charles Leggett of Stow, Massachusetts, created his own new variety of winter squash because he was fed up with his scrawny gooseneck squash not producing enough to feed his family. So he crossed it with a massive Hubbard.
The story goes that Mr. Leggett drove his new squash to the state’s agricultural experiment station 16 miles down the road in Waltham, Mass. The plant scientists were skeptical of his new variety, and they didn’t think the smooth tan squash with the bright orange flesh would grow in their trials. But it did, and when asked what they should call his new squash, the farmer humbly replied, ‘’It is smooth as butter and sweet as a nut, so let’s call it ‘Butternut.’” That would be the University of Massachusetts’ “Waltham Butternut” variety of winter squash to be officially correct, with small seed cavities and easy to slice, thick, cylindrical necks without any crooks.
How I cook butternut squash
I roast it. You can steam it, too, and I include how to do that below. But for the most flavor, all of the winter squashes benefit from roasting. Their bright flesh seems to get sweeter with near caramel tones.
When I’m in a hurry, I cut the top and bottom off the squash and then slice it in half lengthwise. I scoop out the few seeds from the round cavity and discard. (Or roast until crispy with a spritz of vegetable oil.) Then, depending on the size of the butternut, I quarter it if it’s small or cut it into 1-inch lengthwise slices if it’s larger. Tossed with olive oil and seasoning, I air-fry these at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until soft, and then crank up the heat to 400 and let them brown for 3 to 4 minutes. You can simulate that on a sheet pan in the oven, except I would begin at the higher temperature to brown, and then turn down the heat if the pieces are larger so they can more slowly cook through.
Or, here’s how to make those roasted butternut slices in an iron skillet: Can’t find lavender honey? Use wildflower—or your favorite—honey instead. I sampled some fabulous ancho chile honey in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a few years back. That honey would be wonderful with butternut squash.
How to Roast Butternut Slices with Lavender Honey
1 medium butternut squash, about 1 1/4- to 1 1/2 pounds
1 tablespoon olive or avocado oil
2 tablespoons lavender honey
Kosher salt, for sprinkling
Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut a medium butternut squash (about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds) in half lengthwise with a heavy knife. Scoop out the seeds and fibrous interior from the hollow and discard. Cut each half into 3 slices.
Place a dry 12-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes or until it nearly smokes. Add the oil and distribute it evenly on the bottom of the skillet with a metal spatula. Turn the heat back to medium, and add the slices, one by one, to the skillet. Let cook about 2 to 3 minutes on each cut side, or until well browned. Turn off the heat. Turn the slices back upright. Brush with the honey and sprinkle with salt. Place the skillet in the oven, and bake until the squash is fork-tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Makes enough for 4 to 6 servings.
And you can always steam butternut. Slice it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Place the halves, cut-side down in a skillet with an inch of water. Bring the water to a boil, then cover the skillet, reduce the heat to low, and cook until tender enough to pierce it with a knife.
Let the squash cool, then with a spoon scoop out the flesh, and use in your favorite pumpkin or sweet potato recipe. Or, just mash with a little butter, maple syrup and a sprinkle of kosher salt or better yet, Trader Joe’s onion salt.
How do you cook butternut squash?
The soup below is perfect for a Halloween party buffet and served in little mugs or demitasse cups. It plays well with barbecue, fried chicken, grilled burgers, steaks, or boiled shrimp. Or it doesn’t need any companionship whatsoever and can stand alone for dinner. The apple makes it even sweeter. You could also use pear. And the seasoning, my friends, is up to you.
This Thursday for Paid Subscribers
A Soup Swap! An open thread on favorite soups and why. Be thinking of your favorite soup recipe and once I send the email, join in the comments—at your leisure. That’s the beauty of open threads. It’s there and you can check back and pick up some new soup recipes from others. I am sharing how I make vegetable soup that changes with the seasons. And I am hoping my sister chimes in with her favorite Ina Garten soup. We haven’t had a good Open Discussion Thread in a while, and it feels like the right time what with the weather changing and our meals becoming more fall-like. Nothing like a new soup recipe and a cozy sweater, right?
Have a good week!
- xo, Anne
Curried Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
The apple in this recipe makes things even sweeter. Choose any apple from your fruit bowl or a nice Honeycrisp or Jonagold for extra tartness and sweet flavor. And the seasoning is flexible, so add what you’ve got in the spice cabinet. If I had no curry powder, I would substitute some ground cumin mixed with tumeric and cinnamon. Power up the seasoning with Thai curry paste.
Makes 8 servings
Prep: 20 to 25 minutes
Cook: 65 to 70 minutes
1 large butternut squash (2 1/2 pounds)
Vegetable oil spray
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon your favorite curry powder or garam masala
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped (1 to 1 1/4 cups)
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 quart (4 cups) chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Parmesan Toasts (see recipe below)
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with a soup spoon. Discard the seeds. Spray the cut sides of the squash with vegetable oil spray, and place cut-side down onto a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake until the squash is just-tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 35 to 40 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, place the butter in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion, and stir and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the curry powder, reduce the heat to low, and stir and cook 1 minute. Add the apple, thyme, and salt. Stir and turn off the heat.
4. When the squash has cooked, scoop out the cooked squash and place it into the soup pot. Add the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer 15 minutes, or until flavors combine. If desired, puree the soup using an immersion blender or food processor fitted with a steel blade. (If using the food processor, return the puree to the pot.) Add the cream. Bring the soup back to a boil, then reduce and let simmer until it thickens slightly, 3 to 4 minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve warm, garnished with Parmesan Toasts, if desired.
Parmesan Toasts: Slice French bread into 1/4-inch slices. Scatter these slices onto a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese. Place the baking sheet under a broiler, and broil until the toasts turn brown around the edges and the cheese melts. Remove and set aside.
Do Ahead: This soup can be made two days in advance, refrigerated, and reheated over low heat.
Vegetarian: Swap out vegetable stock for chicken.
Vegan: Use olive oil or your favorite cooking oil instead of butter. Instead of the cream, add 1/2 cup canned white beans to the pot along with the roasted butternut squash before pureeing with an immersion blender or in a blender or food processor. Omit the Parm on the toasts and add lots of garlic.
For kids, grandkids, and all-around picky eaters: Cut the curry seasoning in half. Serve extra apple slices to the side.
For a dinner party: Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with pieces of steamed lobster, minced chives, and Parmesan Toast.
Well, just finished dinner… made your butternut squash soup and it was sooo delicious! It’s finally getting “cold” here in Northern Ca so it was the perfect fall meal! I loved the addition of an apple in the recipe; and I sprinkled paprika on top of each bowl for color! Another winner!
love these ideas!
I do love it in soup or roasted.