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.

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.




Autumn Soup Round-Up

Well, it’s finally cooling off here in Austin, Texas, and that means it’s time for soup!

Until I was about 25, “soup” meant a watery, salty concoction from a can. The only soups I’d had were along a narrow spectrum of grocery store awfulness: chicken noodle, potato, vegetable.

In 2008, I received a copy of Giada’s Kitchen: New Italian Favorites, by Food TV chef Giada de Laurentiis as a gift. Laurentiis is my actually favorite of the new breed of television cooking celebrities. Italian food is my favorite regional cuisine. I’m not a food snob; I write a food blog, but, as you may’ve noticed, the meals I make are comparatively uncomplicated, as well as affordable. I like junk food and make no apologies. Laurentiis’s style is approachable and her dishes are simple, healthy, and delicious. I also like her because, like me, she’s short!

The first recipe I made from Giada’s Kitchen was her Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup. It’s a straightforward recipe: butter, onions, garlic, herbs, beans, broth, and cream. But it introduced me to the real possibilities of soup.

After I realized how ridiculously tasty and filling this simple soup was, I started experimenting. I made a potato soup on the same template. I made creamy vegetable soups. I made my soup a little fancier, and complex, by adding toasted nuts. I made it healthier by adding a huge batch of pureed greens. I realized the possibilities are endless! And soup is so budget-friendly, too. As long as you keep the basics on hand (onions, herbs and spices, broth), you can make virtually anything into a great soup. It’s also a great dish to warm up for lunch when you’re at work on just in a hurry. And it freezes brilliantly. Eventually, I even made Julia Child’s french onion soup!

It’s about time for a trip to Wheatsville, and I know what I’ll be stocking up on: soup fixins! I like to keep the following items on hand:

Vegetable broth
Mushroom broth
Chicken broth
Beef broth
Garlic
Shallots
Onions
Salt
Pepper
Heavy cream

I use boxed, organic broths. I do not have the time to make my own broth; hopefully, I will someday. Here’s a basic introduction to making your own chicken broth.

I also find that shallots add a depth of flavor you can’t get from plain old onions, though I use those, too.

Use fresh garlic.

Cream makes everything better. Sometimes, if I have any, I’ll also use a little sour cream, especially with chicken- and/or greens-based soups.

Another tip: use your saved bacon fat as a base for sautéing the onions and garlic.

So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite soups. Make some of this easy no-knead bread, get busy cooking, and start enjoying soup!  Click on any link or picture to go straight to the recipe.

Amazing Asparagus Soup

 

Roasted Acorn Squash and Red Lentil Soup

 

Creamy Greens Soup with Hot Italian Sausage

 

Quick and Cheesy Corn Chowder

 

Creamy Garlic Zucchini Soup

 

Broccoli and Pine Nut Soup

 

Stella’s French Onion Soup


 

Zucchini and Red Pepper Soup


 

Summer Squash (and Corn) Soup

 

Stella’s Pumpkin Soup

Quick and Cheesy Corn Chowder

Here’s another easy, cheap, weeknight meal that’s great for both summer and winter.  It’s fairly light, and makes a nice main course for summer, but it’s also nice and warm and would be great served as a first course before a meaty main in winter.

I used a bag of frozen corn that had been hanging out in the freezer for a while, but you could of course use fresh corn if you aren’t as concerned about the “quick” part, and the result would be even better.

Finally, I actually garnished this with smoked Gouda from Wheatsville.  This cheese complemented the other flavors perfectly, and gave the first few bites of chowder a nice little bit of unexpected bite.  I should also reveal that the teaspoon of sour cream you see above was for display purposes only; I actually used about three times as much.  I love sour cream.  I can eat it straight out of the container.

2 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 large yellow onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
16 oz. chicken stock
16 oz. frozen corn
1/2 head fresh cauliflower (or half a bag frozen)
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup powdered Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup cream
sour cream, to garnish

1. In a large stock pot, melt butter into olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and stir. Sauté for about five or so minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add salt, cumin, and chili powder, stir, and continue to cook for another couple of minutes.

2. Add chicken stock, increase heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Add corn and cauliflower. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover and allow to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If necessary, adjust heat to make sure the soup doesn’t return to a boil, but so that the pot is warm enough that it continues to slowly cook.

3. Pour soup into a blender or large food processor and purée. I like to leave about one cup of chunky corn kernels aside, to add texture to the final dish. Use more as less, as you prefer. You may need to purée the corn mixture in two separate batches. After mixing, return of it to the pot and stir together with chunky bits.

4. Over low heat, add cheeses and stir constantly until they’re completely mixed in (about two minutes). Then add cream and stir until it, too, disappears into the soup.

5. Serve immediately garnished with sour cream, more grated cheese, a sprinkling of chili powder, a sprig of cilantro, or anything else that sounds good! I also like to serve it with homemade tortilla chips!  Mmm.

Serves 4.

Refrigerates nicely, too.

Creamy Garlic Zucchini Soup

Over the weekend, my household gardener and brewmaster (a.k.a. Eric) met up with a chicken-keeping pal to trade some homegrown produce. In exchange for a bag full of jalapeños and habaneros and a nice bunch of fresh herbs, we got six eggs and the Largest Zucchini Ever. This zucchini was seriously about two feet long and weighed at least ten pounds! Eric took half of it to a Memorial Day pool party and grilled it in thick slices; I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the rest.

I don’t really get tired of squash—especially zucchini—and I’m glad it’s zucchini season. You can roast them, grill them, use them as filler, make them into soups, put them in pasta—the possibilities are nearly endless, and they are healthy and filling. But I am kind of afraid to see what size zucchini we’ll be getting from this guy by August!

Anyway, this soup is easy, not requiring a lot of prep work, and the result is shockingly rich and quite silky! I would encourage you not to peel your zucchini; leaving the skin on adds to the nice green color, as well as providing additional nutrients.  Sometimes leaving the skin on gives the final dish a bit of a bitter aftertaste, but, in this case, that’s more than compensated for by the half stick of butter.

What?

I also highly recommend making the sourdough croutons. The rich, tangy flavor of the bread, especially after it’s toasted in olive oil, is an excellent counterpoint to the fresh, creamy flavors of the soup. The addition of the croutons transformed this from a great dinner into a memorable one that I will no doubt make again soon.

Especially if I get anymore ten-pound zucchini!

Creamy Garlic Zucchini Soup

6 cups zucchini, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil, halved
~1 tsp garlic powder
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 white onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 tsp paprika
~ 2 cups roughly chopped greens*
salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
3-4 slices sourdough bread (stale is perfect!), roughly cut into 1″ squares

1. Preheat oven to 325°. In a large roasting tin, toss diced zucchini in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, along with the garlic powder and some salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning the pieces over with a spoon about halfway through.

2. Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil and butter over medium high heat in a large stock pot. Add onions and garlic, stir, and cook for about five to ten minutes, until onions are fragrant and translucent. Add celery, paprika, and a dash of salt and pepper, and cook for another five minutes. Pour in vegetable broth. As soon as it starts to lightly boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and allow to cook for approximately 20 minutes.

3. Remove zucchini from oven and add to pot. Stir thoroughly, and allow to cook for about five more minutes. Meanwhile, add the sourdough squares to the pan, toss in remaining oil and juices, and spread out evenly. Return the pan to the oven and cook for about three minutes, until nicely browned, then remove and set aside.

4. Remove soup from heat and allow to cool slightly (for about five minutes). Add greens, then pour the soup into a blender (you will need to do two separate batches) and blend to desired consistency. I prefer this soup very creamy, so I blend for about three minutes on a higher setting like “cream” or “purée.” After all your soup is blended, return it to the pot and stir in cream. Taste, and add more salt and pepper as desired.

5. Ladle out into serving bowls and garnish with the sourdough croutons. Serve immediately.

Serves 4. Reheats nicely to make even tastier leftovers, and also freezes well.

* I used homegrown green leaf lettuce.