Butternut Squash and Stout Soup

Butternut Squash Soup with Stout

This past Friday night, Eric and I were lucky enough to be at Billy’s on Burnet for the Austin Beerworks Sputnik Cacao Russian Imperial Oatmeal Stout (whew!) cask tapping, along with our friends Kris and Julie. This stuff was excellent. Smooth, rich, dark, and a tad chocolatey. We regularly buy cans of Austin Beerworks’ wonderful Black Thunder and Peacemaker to drink poolside, so we relished the opportunity to try one of their winter brews, fresh from the cask.

That experience, plus the presence of a giant butternut squash and a few potatoes, inspired this filling, flavorful soup. We’re still getting tons of sage from our allotment garden, and I never tire of frying it in some butter or bacon fat and enjoying it on pasta or as a soup topping. Sage pairs beautifully with this soup, and complements the crunchy bacon perfectly. In fact, I’m having the leftovers for lunch, and I can’t wait!

1 large butternut squash, deseeded, peeled, and roughly cubed
3-4 medium waxy potatoes, washed and/or peeled, and roughly cubed
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 white onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
~1 quart chicken (or vegetable) broth
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pint stout (try Austin Beerworks Sputnik, if you can get it!)
~1/2 cup heavy cream
~1/3 cup bacon, pre-cooked and crumbled
handful fresh sage leaves

1. In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for about five minutes, until fragrant and translucent. Add garlic and stir for another minute or two, then add squash and potatoes. Sauté for another five minutes or so, stirring frequently, then pour in chick broth (enough so that the vegetables are covered), and increase heat to high.

2. Bring broth to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for at least thirty minutes, or until the squash are cooked through, soft, and easy breakable. Add more broth, or water, if the soup is too thick.

3. Once the vegetables are soft, pour the soup into a blender or large food processor and mix to desired texture. For this type of soup, I like to blend about 3/4 of the mixture, leaving the rest in the pot, so that the finished dish contains some nice chunky bits of potato and squash. If you want a smooth soup, just blend all of it; you may need to do it in two batches. After blending, return the soup to the pot, over low heat.

4. Add stout, stir, and cook for a further five minutes or so. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, warm bacon over medium heat. Add sage, stir in the resultant bacon grease, and cook until the herbs are slightly crispy. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Add cream to soup and stir thoroughly. Allow the soup to continue to cook until very warm throughout. If your soup starts to bubble or boil, reduce heat.

6. Ladle soup into serving bowls and top with crumbled bacon and crispy sage. Serve immediately, preferably with additional stout!

soup

Eric enjoyed his bowl with some leftover homemade bread.

soup3

*Reds or Yukonn golds are good. I left the skins on for this batch, for additional heft, texture, and nutritional value. Feel free to peel them if you prefer.

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Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs with Garlic-Sour Cream Sauce

Pan-fried chicken thighs

This is another fairly straightforward recipe that created with some of my usual, simple ingredients (grits, butter, Brussels sprouts, fresh spinach), this time with chicken!

I’m posting it in honor of my Twitter friend and fellow medievalist David Works, by special request. Enjoy!

4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs*
2 Tbsp butter
~1/2 tsp salt
~1/2 tsp black pepper
4 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
~1 cup Brussels sprouts, washed and roughly shredded
~1 cup fresh spinach, washed and roughly shredded
1/2 cup sour cream
1 portion of my Horseradish Cheese Grits, precooked

1. In a large, cast iron skillet, melt butter over medium high heat. Add chicken thighs and sauté for about three minutes. Turn over carefully with a non-scratch spatula. Sauté each piece on the other side for an additional three minutes or so, so that both sides are nicely browned.

2. Using the spatula, gently butterfly each thigh in the pan. At this point in the cooking, this should be easy to achieve. The pieces may break in half; this is fine. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook for an additional ten minutes or so, or until each piece is thoroughly cooked through (grey, not pink).

Chicken thighs

3. Remove chicken with a slotted spatula or spoon, draining off as much of the pan juices a possible, and place in a large piece of aluminum foil. Close the foil around the chicken to retain its heat, and set aside (I put mine on an adjacent, cool burner).

4. Drain all but about one tablespoon of the chicken fat juices from the pan and discard (or save for later use). Add garlic and Brussels sprouts and continue to cook for about five minutes, until garlic is fragrant and sprouts have brightened.

sprouts

5. Add spinach and stir thoroughly. Cook for an additional couple of minutes.

6. Reduce heat to a simmer. Spoon in the sour cream, stir thoroughly, and allow the mixture to cook for another couple of minutes. A nice, savory-smelling and creamy sauce will arise. Sample the sauce, adding more salt or pepper as desired.

spinach

7. Uncover and plate the chicken on a bed of my warm Horseradish Cheese Grits, spooning out generous amounts of sauce to drizzle over the whole dish. Serve immediately.

Pan-Fried Chicken Thighs with Garlic-Sour Cream Sauce

Serves 2-4.

*You could of course use thighs with skin, if you like them (and I do!), as the pan-frying process will result in some nice, fatty, crispy pieces. You could also use bone-in chicken; just skip the butterflying step and cook a bit longer, until they’re grey all the way through (and/or use a meat thermometer). I used these pieces because I already had them on hand. And they were excellent.

Pan-Fried Salmon and Sage Spaghetti

Pan-Fried Salmon and Sage Spaghetti

This one’s a bit late, but here’s another way to sneak in that weekly fish serving. As always, the beautiful, fresh Atlantic salmon you see above is from Wheatsville Co-op. Fresh sage courtesy the amazing gardener Eric.

I used to make something similar to this in the UK, but it took the form of a casserole and involved a lot more cheese. This is a lighter, tastier version that’s still perfect for cool, late autumn nights (or indeed, weekend brunch—it’s also great with a fried egg, over-easy!). And, of course, my secret ingredient is horseradish.

1/2 lb spaghetti or linguine
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp butter, halved
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb fresh salmon, filleted and de-boned
~1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves
1 tsp horseradish sauce
1/3 cup grated Asiago cheese
extra salt and pepper, to taste

1. Bring about four cups salted water to a boil over high heat. Add spaghetti and cook for about eight minutes, or until al dente, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, is a large skillet (I suggest cast iron), melt 2 Tbsp butter and olive oil over medium high heat.

Butter

Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about two minutes. Add the salmon to the pan, flesh-side down (if skin is present).

Salmon

Fry for about three minutes, until the underside is somewhat browned, and flip over. Don’t worry if the salmon starts to fall apart.

Pan-fried salmon

Cook on the other side for about three minutes, then flip again. Now the skin will probably slide easily off or crumple; discard (or give to your cat as a snack!). Reduce heat to low and continue to cook until salmon is cooked through. Use your spatula (non-metal if using a cast iron skillet) to further break up the salmon into bite-sized chunks.

Salmon frying

Salmon frying

3. As salmon cooks, drain pasta and return to the pot. Add remainder of butter and stir thoroughly to prevent sticking.

Salmon and spaghetti

Stir in salt, pepper, horseradish sauce, and cheese. Cover and set aside.

Spaghetti

4. Using your spatula, create a small, empty area in your pan. Add sage leaves to the buttery salmon juices and fry for about one minute, until just crispy but not blackened.

Salmon and sage

Salmon and sage

Stir sage and salmon; scrape contents into pasta pot and stir thoroughly.

Salmonn and spaghetti

5. Spoon out into pasta bowls, adding additional cheese, salt, and/or pepper as desired. Serve immediately.

Pan-fried Salmon with Sage Spaghetti

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Serves 4.

You can actually reheat this the next day for an amazing brunch or lunch; and it paired well with a cheap moscato (pictured). Heh.

Sweet Potato Soup with Candied Bacon

Here’s a recipe for those of you who find yourself with a half a bag of leftover sweet potatoes after the holiday! It was a real hit at our house, and I hope you enjoy it.

Beware: the candied bacon is addictive.

4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 white onion, finely diced
3 Tbsp butter
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
two pinches of Old Bay
splash of bourbon
~2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream (or to taste)

12 bacon rashers
brown or natural raw sugar

1. In a large stock pot, melt butter over medium high heat. Add onion and cook about five minutes until just translucent, stirring occasionally. Add sweet potatoes and sauté for a further 10-15 minutes, while you prepare the bacon, stirring occasionally.

2. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 325°. Add bacon to a large plastic bag, leaving the top of the bag open wide. Sprinkle in sugar, seal the bag, and shake vigorously to cover each piece of bacon. You want each piece to be nicely covered in a thin layer of sugar, not clumping. I use just about 1/4 cup of sugar for a whole package of bacon.

3. Remove each bacon rasher from the bag and spread out flat on a cooking rack. Place a foil-lined cookie sheet under this to catch the bacon fat, and place the entire thing into the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the bacon is nice and crispy. Check it at 15 to see if it’s done. Do not raise the temperature to speed cooking.

4. While the bacon is baking, spices and salt to the sweet potatoes and stir thoroughly. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add a splash of bourbon to deglaze the bottom of the pot. Stir again, then pour in vegetable broth. Raise heat to high and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Allow to cook for about 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft and easily crumbled with the back of your stirring spoon.

5. Pour sweet potatoes and broth into a large food processor or blender and blend to desired consistency, doing two batches if necessary (simply pour half in, process, and then remove to a bowl; pour other half from stock pot, process, and then return to pot along with the half in the bowl). I like my sweet potato soup a little chunky, so I processed about 3/4 of the pot, and smashed the remaining large pieces of potato up with the back of my spoon before returning the blended soup to the pot.

6. Stir thoroughly, taste to adjust spices and salt, and continue to simmer over very low heat until the bacon is cooked. Remove bacon from oven, allow to cool, and break into edible pieces (not bacon bits, but small enough to scoop up with a soup spoon!). Drizzle cream into soup and stir thoroughly.

7. Ladle soup out into bowls and top with candied bacon pieces. Serve immediately, while piping hot.

Serves 4.




Stella’s Special Mushroom and Onion Gravy

After being included in the photos for yesterday’s recipe, Garlic Cauliflower Mash, I got a lot of requests for the gravy recipe. I intended to post it today, anyway, but your pleas motivated me to get this up first thing today!

This is a pretty standard gravy, one you might want to whip up for any meat and potatoes type of dish. You can of course substitute beef broth for some or all of the water for an even richer version. You could also leave out either the red wine or bourbon, or substitute brandy. Play around with it! I like it best on beef or pork, but go crazy, and let me know what other flavor pairings you find enjoyable!

The result is a pretty rich, semi-complex sauce: a savory gravy with a hint of sweetness. I think you’ll like it.

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 large white onion, widely sliced
two pinches raw brown sugar
splash red wine
1/2 cup thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
1 heaping Tbsp white flour
1 beef boullion cube
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp powdered garlic
1/2 tsp salt
~1/3 oz. dark chocolate (about half a regular square)
splash bourbon
water

1. In a large skillet, melt one tablespoon of butter over medium high heat and add onions. Add two pinches of brown sugar and stir. Sauté until browned and fragrant, about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Deglaze pan with splash of red wine; add additional tablespoon of butter and mushrooms; stir. Cook until mushrooms are just done—about three minutes.

3. Add dry ingredients and stir furiously until a roux is formed; if your pan is too dry, slowly add water as you stir.

4. Add slash of bourbon, continue to stir for a couple of minutes.

5. Slowly add about a half cup of water while continuing to stir; lower heat to simmer.

6. Cook for an additional five to ten minutes, adding water slowly while stirring, to achieve desired thickness.

You can leave the gravy simmering while finishing up the rest of your meal. Just add more water and stir to thin. Serve directly from pan by pouring over your plate, and enjoy!

Serves 2- 4.

Keeps well in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Shown here with bangers and Garlic Cauliflower Mash. Or try it with my Cheesy Herbed Garlic Mashed Potatoes.