What can be more comforting than a bowl of creamy soup on a cold day? When the weather starts to turn a little chilly, I start making soups and this was my first one this month. Roasting the acorn and butternut squash brings out a wonderful sweetness that is tempered by the leeks, herbs, and garlic. After roasting the squash, saute the leeks and garlic, then add the stock, the mashed squash, and the herbs. Let that cook for a while, then puree it in a blender to get that smooth texture. This can easily be a vegan soup just by using vegetable stock and soy milk, and you can use gluten-free bread if you want to.
The croutons, which mirror the herbal flavors in the soup, are great for dipping in the soup or floating on top. The Gruyère can be a bit pricey, but you can substitute with Swiss. If you are making this for a quick weeknight meal, you could skip the croutons and enjoy the soup with a plain crusty baguette, but if you are serving this as a soup course for Thanksgiving or another special occasion, by all means make the croutons because they complement the soup very well. You can also make this one day ahead and then just gently warm on the stove while making the croutons.
[Updated November 23, 2009.]
ROASTED WINTER SQUASH SOUP WITH CROUTONS
Adapted from several recipes, but mostly from Epicurious.com.
Serves 4 to 6.
baking sheets, lined with foil and lightly coated with olive oil
1 whole butternut squash (about 1-1/2 pounds/6.8 g)
1 whole acorn squash (about 1-1/2 pounds/6.8 g)
fresh ground black pepper
4 tablespoons (56 g) unsalted butter
2 leeks, thinly slicely
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
3 (14-1/2 ounce/429 ml) cans or equivalent amount of homemade low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1-1/4 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1-1/4 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1/4 cup (60 ml) whipping cream, room temperature
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (28 g) butter
24 (1/4-inch-thick/6 mm) baguette slices, cut on the diagonal
1 cup (113 g) grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
fresh ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400° F/200° C.
2. Cut the butternut and acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and lightly sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Place face down on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool so that you can handle it without getting burned. (If you have a convection oven, do not preheat. Put the prepared squash on the baking sheets and put into the cold oven. Bake at 400° F/200° C for 20 to 25 minutes.)
3. Scoop all of the squash out into a large bowl and mash with a potato masher.
4. Melt the unsalted butter in the pot over medium heat. Add leeks and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the broth, mashed squash, and herbs and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.
5. Pour about 1/3 of the soup into the blender and puree. Pour puree out into the large bowl and repeat two more times. Pour the pureed soup back into the pot. Stir in the cream and sugar and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper.
6. CROUTONS: Preheat the broiler. Butter one side of each bread slice and place, buttered side up, on the baking sheet. Broil until golden, about 1 minute. Turn over the bread slices and sprinkle on the cheese, then add the chopped sage and thyme. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil until the cheese melts, about 1 minute.
7. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with the croutons, or serve them on the side.