Of course any produce in season is technically “seasonal vegetables,” but we’re especially excited about fall vege—most notably gourds. Slower growing and laden with delicious vegetable sugars, these thick-skinned squash are the epitome of fall feasting. From succulent side dishes to transcendent main courses, gourds run the gamut of culinary chameleonry.
This time around, butternut squash stars in a super creamy soup topped with a gruyere capped crostini and a generous spoonful of Romesco. The tangy flavors of the sauce compliment the subtly sweet flavor of the soup perfectly. And the melted gruyere crostini brings it all back to terra firma with the perfect balance of earthy funk and cheesy tang. Given a few minutes to soften atop the soup, each spoonful of soup, sauce and bread is an entire meal’s flavor in one bite.
For this soup, we’ve chosen to roast the squash rather than simmer it. Roasting helps concentrate the subtle nutty flavors and delicate sweetness inherent in butternut’s gorgeous orange flesh, rather than dilute it in the simmering liquid. Squash, unlike its subterranean cousin the sweet potato, has a much higher water content which roasting helps to minimize. We also recommend letting the peeled and roasted squash drain for several minutes in a sieve or colander to help drain more of the released liquid before adding it to the soup.
Roasting also makes peeling this squash a veritable breeze. Roasting squash halves, cut side down, allows some of the liquid to help steam the skins away from the roasted flesh. The tough outer skins themselves soften considerably and are much easier to simply lift away. Nothing more than a paring knife is needed, and the increased risk of injury is completely mitigated when working with roasted vegetables. Of course heat is an issue, but we get a helping hand here as well. Simply turn the squash cut side up after roasting and allow the halves to cool almost completely. More liquid, in the form of steam is released helping to concentrate the flavors.
While the soup is simmering, the roasted squash, already soft from its time in the hot box, breaks apart more quickly making blending this soup smooth much easier. Blending anything hot is dangerous, but using an immersion blender decreases the risk of hot soup exploding all over the kitchen considerably. Squash can be a bit more fibrous so it’s best to over-blend this soup rather than under-blend. The smoother the better.
When the cold winds of early fall steal under your door, look no further than this subtly flavored soup to warm you to your toes.
Roasted Butternut Soup with Gruyere Crostinis
- 6 pounds butternut squash
- 2 tablespoon each butter and olive oil
- 1 cup white onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup brandy
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
- finely ground salt and fresh crack black pepper to taste
- 12 slices French baguette
- grated Gruyere cheese
- Romesco sauce (recipe below)
Slice the squash from top to bottom. Scoop out the seeds and stringy material in the center. Roast the squash, cut side down, for an hour in a 350°F oven. Turn the squash right side up and allow it cool. Peel the squash, cut it into chunks and drain any additional liquid by placing the squash in a colander.
In a large dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil and sweat the onions and garlic until they are tender but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the sage, sugar and pepper flakes and sauté a minute longer. Deglaze with the brandy allowing most of the liquid to evaporate. Add the broth, wine and squash to the pot and bring the soup to a simmer. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the squash begins to break apart. Turn the heat to low and blend the soup until it’s smooth. Stir in the cream and season with finely ground salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.
Toast baguette slices and top each with shredded cheese. Broil on low until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Ladle soup in the bowls, top with a crostini and a ladle of Romesco sauce.
- 1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded
- ¼ cup toasted slivered almonds
- ¼ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Blend everything in pulses leaving the sauce very slightly chunky. Do not overblend. Refrigerate until you are ready to use.