Aside from cinnamony apple desserts, I think there’s another dish just about everybody seems to enjoy and crave come autumn: butternut squash soup. It seems like even the most fervent anti-squash types warm up to a bowl of the stuff (and how could they not?). Even though I’m in season-deprived state of sunny Florida, my craving kicked in like clockwork and I had to have a bowl. I wanted to make a meal of this soup, so in the name of adding more substance to it, I added cannellini beans and sausage.
Of the many inspirations I had for this soup, this is what really caught my eye. Some roasted butternut squash soups can be a bit more liquidy (generally not my preference), but this was a hearty soup with some real body to it. The sweet, distinct flavor of the roasted squash was center-stage, but it was surrounded by a really full cast of flavors. The bacon and sausage, aside from the meaty goodness they bring, added a smokey note, something also enhanced by the dried chili. The spices (cumin, coriander, cardamom, cloves–lots of “c”s!) added some citric, earthy flavors, and the creme fraiche added a very smooth, nutty richness. This was an incredibly delicious soup perfect for this time of year when you need something comforting to warm you up (while I still use my air conditioner…).
- 2 butternut squash
- olive oil
- 3 strips bacon
- 1 leek
- 2 celery
- 1 carrot
- 6 garlic
- 1 dried New Mexico chili (or some similarly flavorful but mild heat chili)
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 6 cups broth (up to 8 cups depending on how thick/thin you like you’re soup)
- 1 sprig rosemary
- handful thyme
- handful sage
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup creme fraiche
- 3 hot italian sausage
- ~30 oz (2 cans) cannellini beans
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- dash ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
Start with the squash. Cut them in half from top to bottom and remove the stringy parts and seeds as best you can. Rub all over with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper, and roast these fleshy side up in the oven on 400°F for about 45 minutes, give or take 20 minutes (wait until they’re fork tender).
While you wait on the squash, prepare all of the other vegetables and herbs. Finely dice the carrot, celery, pale part of the leek, and garlic. Likewise for the thyme, rosemary, and sage leaves.
And hey, time flies, the squash is done! Give it a few minutes to cool down so you don’t burn yourself before you go scooping out the cooked squash flesh. Set this aside.
In a dutch oven or some other large pot, cook the bacon. Once its done, remove the cooked bacon and set it aside. Leave about 1-2 Tbsp of the bacon grease in the pan and save the rest for future use.
With the bacon out of the way, remove the sausage from its casing, crumble it up, and cook it in the bacon grease until thoroughly cooked. Set it aside.
And now, start cooking the vegetables. Sauté the carrot, celery, and leek in the grease for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic for an additional minute. In a separate dry pan, toast the dried chili for a minute or two and set it aside.
Deglaze the vegetable pan with the white wine, pouring it and promptly scraping the browned bits off of the bottom of the pan.
Add the stock and the scooped out squash. Also add in the herbs, spices, and the dried pepper and let this all simmer for about 15 minutes.
With everything a bit softer, now is a good time to puree this. Carefully and working in batches, puree the mixture, preferably using a blender (you’ll get a smoother result than in a food processor). Continue to simmer the pureed mix.
Add the cream and creme fraiche to the soup and continue simmering until you’re happy with the texture. Once you are, adjust the seasoning of the soup to taste and add the sausage, crumbled bacon, and beans. Continue to simmer for another 10-15 minutes to warm everything up.
At this point, grab yourself a bowl and dig in. I topped with a scoop of creme fraiche and some chives, but some other garnishes that work nicely: fried sage leaves or deep fried seeds from the butternut squash (use the bacon grease!). I tried all of them, but let’s just say some photographed better than others.
Whatever you do, most importantly, enjoy!