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Butternut Squash Soup

This classic winter soup is hearty and easy to prepare. Use vegetable broth as noted in the recipe and do not substitute for chicken broth. If you don't have vegetable broth use water.

Julian's Butternut Squash Soup
This recipe was originally from Cooks Illustrated and they used a whole leek in place of the shallot. You can do this as well, although it will flavor the soup. In the photos shown here I have some extra thyme I was trying to use up and I'm also just making half a batch. Do follow the recipe and not my photos. I do use a little heavy cream to thin the soup, but water works as well.

Ingredients
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash,
2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1 shallot
Salt and pepper 
4 cups vegetable broth 
1 - 2 cups water 
2 sprigs fresh thyme 
1 bay leaf 
pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper

Instructions
Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler, and cut in half where it widens. Set the wider bottom side down on your cutting board, and cut it in half from the top. Scoop out and discard the seeds. Cut all of the squash flesh into 2-inch chunks and place in bowl. Chop the shallot and set aside. 

Cover the squash with plastic wrap and microwave until paring knife glides easily through flesh, 14 to 18 minutes, stirring halfway through. Carefully transfer squash to colander set over a bowl (squash will be very hot) and drain for 5 minutes; reserve liquid.

Melt butter in Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over medium-high heat. Add squash, shallot, and 1 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until squash pieces begin to break down and a light brown fond forms in bottom of pot, 10 to 13 minutes.

Add 2 cups broth and scrape bottom of pot to loosen and dissolve fond. Add remaining 2 cups broth, reserved squash liquid, 1 cup water, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, nutmeg and cayenne. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until squash is fully tender, 6 to 7 minutes.

Remove and discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Using a stick (emersion) blender, carefully blend into a velvety smooth soup. (Alternatively, working in batches, process soup in blender until smooth, filling the blender vessel no more than half full each time.)

Thin with water or cream to desired consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

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