Honeynut Squash Soup
We’re in love with the honeynut squash. It looks a little like someone put a butternut squash in the wash and shrunk it, but its diminutive size belies a rich, sweet flavor: think caramel, nuts, and malt. It has a thin, edible skin and a smooth texture, so it’s easy to cook with, too. And, with almost three times the beta-carotene of a butternut — a fantastic source of Vitamin A and antioxidants — it’s practically a superfood.
In this soup, we layer the sweet honeynut with a bunch of savories: a handful of root vegetables, some fall aromatics, and a bouquet garni filled with parsley, thyme, bay, and peppercorns. Plus, there’s a swirl of brown butter and some fresh nutmeg, just to amplify the fall notes. That’s a lot of moving parts for a puréed squash soup, but it’s worth it. The result is so silky-smooth, flavorsome, and deeply comforting.
If you’re having a sit-down dinner for Thanksgiving, a cup of this soup will make a marvelous start; a bowl will make a nice vegetarian main — with the crème fraîche, it’s quite satisfying. It’s also just exactly what we want for a casual fall luncheon, like when the book group comes over. It’ll be delightful with a bright green salad.
3 honeynut squash
2 Tbsp canola oil, divided
Kosher salt, to taste
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 sprigs sage
8 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs Italian parsley
2 bay leaves
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 cup leeks, thinly sliced, reserve the green tops
½ cup carrots, thinly sliced
½ cup shallots, thinly sliced
½ cup onions, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, smashed
2 Tbsp honey
6 cups vegetable stock, plus more if needed
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
¼ cup crème fraîche
1 Tbsp chives, minced
Whole nutmeg, freshly grated
Preheat the oven to 350º. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut two of the squash in half and discard the seeds.
Brush each half of the squash inside and out with about 1 ½ teaspoons of the canola oil. Sprinkle the cavities with salt and pepper to taste, and tuck a sprig of sage into each.
Place the squash cut-side-down on the baking sheet and roast until they’re completely tender, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and let them cool, then scoop out and reserve the flesh, discarding the sage.
Meanwhile, peel the remaining squash and cut the flesh into ½-inch pieces.
Wrap the thyme, Italian parsley, bay leaves, and black peppercorns in 2 of the green leek tops with cooking twine to make a bouquet garni.
In a large stock pot, combine the remaining canola oil with the leeks, carrots, shallots, and onions and cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, for about 6 minutes.
Add the diced squash and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook gently for 3 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to keep the garlic and squash from coloring.
Stir in the honey and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the vegetable stock and bouquet garni, bring the stock to a simmer, and cook until the squash is tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the roasted squash and simmer gently for about 30 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and discard the bouquet garni.
Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches, and purée. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If it is too thick, add a little more vegetable stock.
Heat a small saucepan over high heat. When it is very hot, add the butter and rotate the saucepan over the heat as necessary to brown the butter evenly, scraping up any bits that settle in the bottom. As soon as the butter is a hazelnut brown, pour it into the pot of soup and stir to combine. Note: Keep a safe distance, it may sputter.
Divide the soup between six bowls, and garnish each with a dollop of crème fraîche, chives, ground black pepper and fresh nutmeg.
Recipe adapted from: New York Times Cooking