Last weekend my friend and fellow food blogger, Annalise, from the amazing baking blog, And Now for Something Completely Delicious, came over for an afternoon of baking, cooking, and gabbing. We had originally emailed about getting together so she could help me do some work on the back end of my blog but in true foodie fashion, those plans were (happily) pushed aside for cheesy biscuits and butternut squash soup!
I’m not a great baker. I’m a sufficient baker and ,yes, I can fudge me way through a dozen cookies or an easy bundt cake but I tend to stick to what I know. I’ve actually never made biscuits from scratch before until Saturday. And technically I didn’t even make them but I watched Annalise put them together and I have to say they looked silly simple. She taught me a few tricks to ensure flaky, buttery deliciousness and I can’t wait to try my hand at them soon. She left a couple for me and I ate them the next morning for breakfast. Who knew Parmesan Biscuits with Scallions and Black Pepper would be so good smothered in blackberry jam!
The soup on the other hand………well, let’s just say it was lengthy. Not difficult but a long process. This recipe is adapted from one of my idols, Thomas Keller, and he most certainly adds a few extra steps that seem like a pain but trust me, they ensure the most velvet like soup packed full of flavor.
Roasting the squash with a few sage leaves before adding it to the soup allows for the squash’s natural sugars to caramelize and the sage to impart a nice subtle undertone. Making a bouquet garni is fancy for putting a herb and spice mix in cheese cloth. This way when you simmer the soup you get all the flavors of the herbs without having bits and pieces of the herbs.
Instead of an emersion blender, I used my Vita-mix to puree the soup and then took an extra step and pushed it through a fine chinois (again, fancy for sieve) so that soup was silky smooth. I’m sure you’re asking yourself if you could skip this. My answer is of course you can. It won’t be as smooth but it will still be delicious, creating a more rustic version of the soup.
The last two steps cannot be skipped I’m afraid. They are the piste de resistance if you will. A half stick of browned butter stirred into the soup right at the end and a dollop of nutmeg scented creme fraiche (or sour cream) send this soup over the top.
We had such a fun afternoon baking, cooking, and taking pictures. After all our hard work we sat down and enjoyed the fruits of our labor. I can’t think of a better meal or better company for a late lunch on a Saturday afternoon. Oh, and thank you, Annalise for cleaning my kitchen………..
Butternut Squash Soup with Brown Butter & Nutmeg
- 1 3 to 3 1/2- pound butternut squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
- 4 sprigs fresh sage
- 1 cup thinly sliced leeks, rinsed and cleaned
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
- 3/4 cup thinly sliced sweet yellow onion
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 6 cups vegetable stock, more if needed
- Bouquet Garni made of 8 sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves, 2 sprigs sage, and 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
- 1/3 cup creme fraiche or good sour cream
- freshly grated nutmeg
- kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375F degrees. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the squash in half and scoop out and discard seeds. Brush each half inside and out with one tablespoon of the olive oil. Sprinkle the cavities with salt and pepper and tuck two sprigs of sage into each. Place cut-side-down on the baking sheet and roast until completely tender, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, place the creme fraiche or sour cream in a small bowl and stir in nutmeg to taste; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove the squash from the oven and let cool, then scoop out and reserve the flesh (discard sage). Put the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat, add the leeks, carrots, and onions and cook, stirring often, for about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook gently for 3 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to keep the garlic from coloring. Stir in the honey and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and bouquet garni, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the roasted squash and simmer gently for about 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Remove from the heat and discard the bouquet garni. Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches, and puree. Strain the soup through a fine sieve into a bowl. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. If it is too thick, add a little more vegetable stock. Heat a medium skillet over high heat. When it is very hot, add the butter and rotate the skillet 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 — keep a safe distance, it may sputter — then stir. Ladle the soup into serving bowl and top with a dollop of creme fraiche. Serve immediately.