Brown Butter Butternut Squash Soup

Yesterday, we raised a glass (or two) to my husband to congratulate him on the completion of the second part of his big exam.  Two parts down, two to go!  We also had our dear friends Shawn and Sarah over last night for a little celebration and our belated Thanksgiving festivities.

I made this brown butter butternut squash soup yesterday afternoon once my husband had gotten home from his test.  He went out to grab a bottle of sparkling wine at the store, and when he returned, he asked, “Is that my house that smells so good?”  The aroma of crisp bacon sautéed with onion, garlic, carrots, and celery must have slipped through the screen door and permeated the air beyond the gate to our little backyard.  He was right: it smelled fabulous!

When I pulled the roasted squash out of the oven, I almost didn’t make the soup.  Its flesh was so sweet and tender that I just wanted to eat it.  Fortunately, I did manage to scrounge up enough patience and self-restraint to finish making the dish I’d planned.

We sampled a bowl of this delicious soup for lunch with our sparkling wine before our guests came over.  I served it again that evening as part of our Thanksgiving dinner, alongside Julia Child’s tarragon chicken and some carrots roasted simply with olive oil, sea salt, and cracked black pepper.  What a feast!

The couple of ounces of browned butter poured into the pot and the spoonful ladled over the top of a serving of the dish really add depth to it.  This was my first time browning butter, and I found these tips particularly helpful.  While I loved the addition of bacon and browned butter to this soup, I’m thinking about foregoing both and substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth to serve it to a vegan guest next weekend.  I’ll be sure to report on how that experiment turns out!

Brown Butter Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 6

2 butternut squash (about 5-6 lbs.), halved and seeded
olive oil
salt and pepper
2 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
6-8 cups chicken broth
3 sprigs parsley
1 bay leaf
pinch of crushed red pepper
1 stick of unsalted butter
brown sugar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Place halved and seeded squash on cookie sheet or in roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. (I used kosher salt and cracked black pepper.) Roast for 45 minutes-1 hour depending on size of squash. They are done with they are slightly brown and tender enough to scoop out their flesh with a spoon.

2. In a large pot over medium heat, add about a tablespoon of olive oil and cook the bacon until nearly crisp. Add the onions and garlic and sautée until browned. Then add the carrots and celery and continue to sautée for another 5 minutes. You may need to add additional olive oil while browning the vegetables if they get too dry.

3. Season with salt and pepper, then add 6 cups of chicken broth as well as the parsley, bay leaf, and red pepper. Let simmer for at least ten minutes.

4. Remove the parsley and bay leaf; scoop out the butternut squash into the soup. Stir, then simmer for another ten minutes. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, purée the soup until it reaches the desired consistency. Adjust seasoning. Add brown sugar if additional sweetness is desired. If the soup is too thick, add additional chicken broth.

5. Brown the butter (see link above). I strained out the dark milk solids with a wire mesh strainer and then again through a cheesecloth. Add all except 3-4 tablespoons of the browned butter to soup. Stir.

6. Serve, drizzling brown butter over the top of each bowl of soup.

Adapted from The Kitchy Kitchen.