They're piled up in giant bins at every grocery store and deli in this pumpkin-obsessed town, and while making a decorative gourd-and-squash cornucopia might score you points with the elderly woman in 3F, it's way more fun and a lot more delicious to turn the season's harvest into a tasty treat on a crisp evening. I'm referring, of course, to squash soup, the staple on seasonal menus at every restaurant around town. Sure, you could easily slurp this amber-colored deliciousness tucked away in a cozy pub, but you could also have the satisfaction of making great vats of the stuff in your very own kitchen to enjoy while catching up on Scandal on Netflix.
So if you've got an hour to kill and a basic understanding of how to use an oven, strap on your Forever Lazy and make this extremely easy and satisfying Roasted Squash Soup.
You Will Need:
- 1 large butternut squash (or acorn or whatever fancy squash catches your eye—just don't use those puny decorative pumpkins, adorable though they may be)
- 1 large carrot
- 1 Spanish onion (or two small yellow onions)
- 3 cloves of garlic (for non-Vampires, 4-5 cloves is also delicious but don't expect any late-night smooches, ya know?)
- 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/2 pint heavy cream (stop whining)
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg (I'll hold back judgement that you're using pre-ground)
- 1 teaspoon ginger (ground, finely chopped, powdered, vaporized—whatever)
- 1 small bunch thyme, chopped (fresh is best but as long as your dried vial isn't from 1993 it's probably fine)
- olive oil (non of that fake shit, please)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (stop being such a wimp it's not that spicy)
- salt and (freshly ground, you monster) pepper
Preheat your pathetic excuse for an oven to 350.
Now you're going to have to do some chopping, here, but lucky for you all of this stuff eventually ends up in the food processor so no extra points for making perfectly proportioned cubes. Size does matter here—doesn't it always?—because you'll want uniform cubes so they all cook evenly and finish at the same time.
First, you're going to peel the armored shell of your squash and remove the seeds. I can't believe there's an entire how to video on how to accomplish this task but it's not like I can check your browser history and laugh at you so please be my guest if this is your first time manhandling squash. You'll want relatively uniform chunks—we just went over this—of about half an inch. Next, wash and peel that carrot, you monster! No telling where that thing might have been (spoiler: the ground). Cut into similarly-sized chunks.
I could devote a whole paragraph on how to properly dice an onion but you've been reading closely, right, and you remember that it doesn't matter. So just remove the skin and outer layer and cut into chunks. No fancy mincing of the garlic, either; just smash each clove, remove the skin and throw into your roasting pan.
So, hey, also, you're going to need something to cook all this stuff in. A roasting pan is ideal here because it allows each little morsel of sweet squash flesh its own space to cook. But let's be real—who besides really hardcore food makers has a roasting pan? Any large, flat-bottomed pot or pan will do in a pinch; just don't expect as much caramelization as you would in a "proper" pan.
Once you have the squash, onion, garlic and carrot awaiting their imminent death in your roasting vessel, toss in the ginger, brown sugar, nutmeg and cayenne, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper and the douse the whole thing in a few glugs of olive oil. Toss until all the nibblets are well-coated and then throw that bad boy into the oven.
You'll have some time to kill here—anywhere from 25 − 45 minutes depending on the strength of your oven, the freshness of your squash and the size of the chunks—but don't wander too far because you'll need to toss the squashy goodness a few times to ensure even cooking. When the veggies have been in for half an hour or so, go ahead and sprinkle the chopped thyme in there and return to the oven. Once the squash and carrots are fork tender and the onions translucent, evacuate everything from the oven and set aside.
Where I live in Spanish Harlem one can procure a food processor for somewhere in the $15 range. It will be on the small side, it will make an ungodly grinding noise when you use it and will possibly emit a sharp burning smell but it will processes that food decently enough. In lieu of spending your hard earned dough on a piece of (potentially hazardous) kitchen machinery that will henceforth collect dust on top of your refrigerator, you can use a blender for this next stop, so long as you work in smaller batches and beware of exciting-yet-potentially-painful hot liquid in blender explosions.
Toss your mixture from the oven into the food processor, secure the lid and pulse a few times to get things moving. Using the hole in the lid made expressly for this purpose, slowly pour in the stock until the mixture becomes smooth and creamy but still retains most of its thickness. Next, pour in about half of a 1/2 pint carton of heavy cream. Remove the lid from the food processor—after you've turned it off honestly must I walk you through everything?!??—and taste the molten orange goo. Is it not salty enough? Add more salt. Is it still kind of thick and goopy? Add more stock or more cream. You get the idea. Pulse a few more times to incorporate.
You could stop here and by god if the smell of garlic and onion and sweet squash has worked you into a fervor that not even more cowbell can cure then by all means stop here, pick up a spoon and go to town. But if you are a completist and desire that creamy, lump-free texture you find in fancy schamncy restaurants, hold on for a just a few more minutes for this last step. Grab a stainless steel mesh strainer (if you have one), affix it to the top of a mixing bowl (if you have one), pour some of the soup mixture into the strainer (you have some of that) and then use a whisk (if you have one) to push the soup through the strainer into the bowl below. You'll have to do this in a few stages but you'll be rewarded with very smooth and chunk-free soup. Discard the bits that remain in the strainer—or spread it on toasted bread because that shit is good.
Here's where I could tell you to put the entire mixture into a pot and plop it on the stove but good lord haven't you used enough dishes at this point? Pour a portion into the serving bowl of your choice and zap it in the microwave for a minute to finish heating, if need be.
Congratulations—you've now made soup! Top your exquisite bowl of joy with, perhaps, homemade croutons or maybe some crispy bacon or a little bit of creme fraiche—go ahead, you deserve it.