Squash Soup for the Shortest Day of the Year

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December feels like it has flown by. I’m leaving town for the holidays tomorrow morning and there’s still so much to do — baking, packing, and assorted errands that somehow get edited out of Christmas movie montages, like getting new keys cut or going to the dentist. (That scene didn’t make it into The Holiday, for some reason …)

It’s also freezing in Toronto, which adds a layer of complication to running errands. I keep arriving home covered in slush and frozen to the core, and I have a craving for soup that cannot be denied. I’m also trying to use up all the food in the house before I leave, so I set out to make a version of my mom’s Thanksgiving squash soup that would use up all my orange vegetables and up my vitamin count before I spend a week in a house with ten other people.

I was not disappointed by the resulting soup. It requires some prep work, but the end result is so worth it. It’s so easy, keeps well, and reheats like a dream. You can freeze leftovers, if you have any, and eat soup anytime you like. Besides, it’ll be dark out by 4pm today. What else are you going to do?

Here’s what you need:

Equipment:

  • Soup pot with lid (I used a Le Creuset french oven size 26/5.5 quarts/5.3 liters; use a pot you would feel comfortable poaching a whole chicken in)
  • Immersion blender (I got this one as a gift and it works great here) or high-performance blender if you own such a fancy appliance
  • Rimmed baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Vegetable peeler

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 large sweet potato (or 2 small ones)
  • 2-3 medium-sized carrots
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped small
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • Olive oil
  • 3-4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (note: I use no-sodium stock as this allows me to add salt to taste when I cook; if you are using regular stock, use salt sparingly until your soup is finished so as not to oversalt)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter, to finish

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F and line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Rinse and peel the squash, sweet potato, and carrots. (Note: I found that peeling the butternut squash prior to roasting is easiest — once everything is done roasting, I tip it directly into the soup pot. This method also yields more caramelized bits of squash goodness. If you fear that your vegetable peeler isn’t up to the task and you don’t trust your knife skills, half the squash lengthwise, roast it with the skin on, then scoop out the flesh once it’s done roasting and cool enough to handle. See the end of this post for a picture!)
  3. Chop the squash into half-moons and sweet potato, and carrots into even-sized chunks. Be sure to remove the seeds from the squash when you get to them. Your squash will look like this: 2016-12-15-14-56-37-copy
  4. Coat the vegetables in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes, checking/tossing occasionally, until vegetables are very tender.
  5. When your vegetables are about 10 minutes away from ready, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in your soup pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
  6. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Be careful not to let it burn.
  7. Add your roasted vegetables to the pot (or to the blender, if using), along with the maple syrup or honey, nutmeg, and black pepper. Add 3 cups of the stock.
  8. If using a high-performance blender: blend until soup is very creamy and hot. Make sure not to fill the blender past the maximum fill line to avoid burning yourself!
  9. If using an immersion blender: bring the mixture in your soup pot to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes to let all the flavors incorporate. Using the immersion blender, blend down the soup until it is smooth. Add the butter, stir to combine, then blend again until your soup is very smooth.
  10. If you find the soup too thick, add the remaining cup of stock and stir to combine. Season to taste and serve immediately.

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(Clockwise from left: if roasting the halved, seeded squash with the skin on, place it face-down on the baking tray and flip it once it’s out of the oven so it cools down faster; blending the soup with an immersion blender; enjoying the soup out of an oversized mug, perfect for cold days!)

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