Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Confit


Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted carrots, salad, soup, and pie. Sounds like Thanksgiving dinner, right? Actually, I'm fondly recalling our neighbor's Christmas Eve dinner not to long ago (just last year!). The fare was appropriate, and delicious. I am truly thankful for our neighbors. We live in the kind of neighborhood where we entrust each other with house keys, pets and children. We have the kind of neighbors you can ask for that extra egg or cup of flour for a recipe, or get unsolicited help unloading a truck full of dirt, and of course share a meal and a beer.

Joining our neighbors and a few other friends for a winter night feast was a great way to celebrate friendship and abundance. The food was simply amazing. Fluffy mashed potatoes and carrots roasted with Calvados set off the main dish--roasted turkey with homemade gravy and stuffing. Romaine lettuce salad with cashews and a sweet-and-sour dressing complemented the bread bowl, which was served with brie cheese and marinated peppers and olives. And there were plenty of desserts, from cookies, to pumpkin bars, berry pie and Grand Marnier cake.

My offering to this motley crew was squash soup. I gleaned the recipe for this first course from the pages of Fields of Greens, by Annie Somerville (which, by the way, was a birthday gift from my neighbors). I have made squash soup plenty of times, but the addition of Brandy, crème fraiche and apples made this soup stand out. The recipe calls for Calvados, but I didn't have any. Next time, I'll borrow some from my neighbors.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Confit

Light Vegetable Stock (Recipe below)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
salt
five-pepper mix or white pepper
3 tbsp Calvados
4 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (about 6 cups)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 McIntosh or other flavorful apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 crème fraiche

1. Make stock and keep warm. You could substitute vegetable broth, or store-bought stock, but I don't recommend it. The lightness and beautiful flavor is irreplaceable.

2. Heat olive oil in sauce pan and add onions, 1/2 tsp slat and a pinch of pepper. Sautee over medium heat until the onions begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes, adding a little stock if they begin to stick.

3. Add 2 tbsp Calvados and cook 1 or 2 minutes, until almost dry.

4. Add squash and 1 tsp salt to the onions. Add just enough stock to cover the squash. Simmer over medium heat for about 30 minutes.

5. Puree soup in a blender or food processor. Add a bit more stock if too thick.

6. While the soup is cooking, make apple confit. Melt butter in a saucepan, and add apples.

7. When they are heated through, add Calvados and cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Add apple juice and cover and cook for 15 minutes, until soft. Then cook uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes
to reduce liquid. Mash the apples, leaving confit chunky.

8. Stir half of the confit into soup. Season soup with salt and pepper.

9. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with some confit and a swirl of crème fraiche.

Light Vegetable Stock

1 yellow onion thinly sliced
1 leek top
4 garlic cloves, in skin
1 tsp salt
2 medium carrots chopped
1 large potato
1/4 pound mushrooms
2 celery ribs
6 parsley sprigs
3 sage leaves
6 thyme sprigs
2 marjoram sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp peppercorns

Pour just enough water into stockpot to get onions cooking. Add onions, leeks and garlic and cook for 15 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and cover with 9 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Strain stock.

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