Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In Valorie's Kitchen: A Little Butternut Love

The leaves have turned, the air is crisp and cool. It is definitely fall, and pumpkins are beginning to appear in every nook and cranny throughout the neighborhood. They're also turning up in just about every edible delight this time of year, too, from pie and bread to soup, chili and even coffee.

I love pumpkins, both to look at and to eat. However, the pumpkin varieties worthy of a good recipe are only available in the fall and can even be hard to find in a traditional grocery store. Add to that the inferiority of canned pumpkin, and you have a very short time span when enjoying recipes with fresh pumpkin is possible.

Enter the butternut. A winter squash, butternut has bright orange flesh with a texture and sweetness similar to pumpkin. Available amost anywhere and at most times of year, it makes a good substitute for fresh pumpkin. Not only is it perfect in sweet recipes like pie, bread, and cookies, it fits nicely in the savory scene as well. I love to use butternut in fillings for homemade ravioli, or baked and topped with butter as a simple side dish. Most of all, I adore the creamy texture and rich flavor of a butternut squash soup.


What you'll need:
1 large butternut squash, about 3lbs
1 medium shallot, peeled and finely minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon madras curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4-6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup heavy cream

First, prepare the butternut squash by cutting it in half lengthwise and scraping away the seeds and any stringy, tough flesh from the center. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the halves flesh-side-down onto the paper. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes, or until the texture is soft under gentle pressure. The skin beginning to shrivel slightly and the juices starting to caramelize around the edges are good signs that it's done. Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool.

Use a spoon to scrape the cooled flesh out of the shells and into a large (8-quart or bigger) sauce pan. Set this aside.

In a small skillet, warm the olive oil. Add the shallots and sautee them with a pinch of salt until they are soft and begin to brown slightly. Add the remaining salt, curry powder, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix and continue cooking for about a minute more when the combination becomes fragrant.

Add this mixture to the squash. Add about 4 cups of the chicken stock to the sauce pan. Using an immersion blender, puree the squash until the texture is smooth and free of any chunks. Add additional stock, as needed. Alternatively, the shallot & squash mixture can be pureed in a food processer in small batches.

Heat the mixture over a medium flame until it reaches a very gentle and slow boil. Add the maple syrup and cider vinegar, mix, and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Next, add the cream, stir, and cook for five minutes longer. Remove from the stove and serve immediately topped with a little grated parmesan or a drizzle of maple syrup. This is great as a cup-sized starter with fresh bread and butter, or in bigger portions, as a main course along side a green salad.

Yields 4 to 6 1.5 cup servings

> Click here for a printable recipe card.

I hope you enjoyed Valorie's contribution to the lillyella kitchen this week! Stop back on December 15 when she'll be sharing a delicious recipe for Stuffed Shells and I'll have one more pumpkin recipe for you on December 1!

You can browse more of Valorie's recipes on her site Kitchen Improv and find previous In The Kitchen posts here.


Jewelry By Artwark (all works COPYRIGHT) said...

it is like you read my mind!! I have been looking for a butternut squash soup for some time & was just talking about it yesterday!! Then lo & behold here is a delicious one!! I look forward to trying this recipe out ;D

Marmalade Hills said...

You are making me hungry! and it's 11pm...