Here in New England, fall is getting its coat and hat preparing to go, and winter is standing on the doorstep looking expectantly — and a little creepily — through the glass waiting to come in, so our meal planning turns to hot and filling foods in an attempt to make everyone comfortable. This is something I cooked up a few days ago in that vein. It’s also an antidote to what I consider the too-sweet trend in squash soups.
Purchase a small kambocha squash (also called buttercup squash). Other squash varieties will also work, but kambocha is what I used. Its floury texture and deep flavor make for good soups, I’ve found.
Take a quart of any flavorful and preferably high-fat stock, and put it in a medium pot on the stove to heat up. (I used a pint of beef marrow stock I had left over, thinned 1:1 out to a quart with plain water. I’m currently working through a former housemate’s meat CSA stockpile, so I have somewhat odd leftovers.)
Cut open the squash, scoop out the seeds, and begin peeling and dicing it. When you have half of the squash diced, put it in the now-simmering stock. Turn up the heat a little to compensate for the increased thermal mass. Wonder if the pot is big enough for the whole squash, and pour everything into a bigger pot if necessary. Be thankful you didn’t buy a larger squash. (Or you can put only half of the squash in, which is possibly what I should have done, but I was already trying to solve a nacho problem with the stock and didn’t want a half squash lying around. So — excelsior!)
You could cook the squash in the oven ahead of time, but I find that takes far longer, and means I often burn my hands trying to peel it while still hot. Simmering the squash is much faster and doesn’t affect the flavor as far as I can determine.
Be thankful you got a larger pot once the whole squash has been diced and added. Hope there’s still enough space for the onion. What onion? The large onion you’re about to chop up and cook with a good tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan. (Or you can sauté up a small onion plus some leek bits left over from the other thing you’re making simultaneously, which is what I did.) Mince the last four cloves of garlic and cook them up too. Wish you had a full head of garlic. Possibly add some chili powder or smoked paprika to the oil. Cook everything until the onion is translucent, then dump everything into the pot with the squash.
Cover and simmer the squash until it’s practically mush.
Take your immersion blender and blend it to a nice orange paste. Thin it out with half a cup of milk, so it’s not quite so stiff. (Seriously, a full squash in this comes out pasty and mounding.)
Add a half teaspoon of salt, or to taste.
Taste it. Taste it again. Wonder why the second taste is so much blander than the first.
In a fit of pique, add a tablespoon of sriracha sauce (or to taste). Taste again. Wonder why everything is gorgeous and wonderful. Taste again. Marvel at how everything is still gorgeous and wonderful.
Ladle yourself a bowl. Eat. Refrigerate the remaining portion. Congratulate yourself on your culinary inventiveness.
Garnish with sour cream and chopped scallions if you like.
The soup is too grainy after blending: You didn’t cook the squash long enough. Put the soup back on heat for a bit.
The squash particles precipitate out when the soup stands for a bit: You didn’t use enough fat. Add more fat, preferably somewhat saturated, in the form of heavy cream, butter, or lard.
Everything is still too bland after the sriracha: Use better stock. Use another onion or a larger onion. Carmelize the onions. Add more garlic. Add more spices. Add more sriracha.
You can’t taste the dried spices: You added them dry into the soup rather than working them into the oil, didn’t you? Add more, but work them into some good olive oil first over moderate heat. (This was one of my failure modes.)
Seriously, I had not expected the sriracha to add anything but spice, but something about it brought out the flavor of the squash in a way I was really happy with. The soup didn’t even end up that spicy by my standards, the spice just prevented my tastebuds from getting tired of the other flavors or something. Clearly more investigation will be required.
In particular I want to try adding some scotch bonnet sauce my house has, which has a nice buttery flavor, to the next batch, but it has whole seeds in it so it will need to go in before the blending or followed by an additional blending step.