Everyone knows that there’s nothing like a good deal, so when I saw that my local grocery store was selling behemoth butternut squashes for €2.50 a piece, I had to get one. I even went so far as weighing all of the butternuts to make sure I got the biggest one, which is a little sad. So I came home with this 3 kg (6.61 lbs) butternut squash, and did what I’m sure most people would do: brag about the good deal on Facebook and ask for recipe suggestions (speaking of Facebook, have you liked Buttered Side Down yet?).
One friend posted a link to this recipe, saying that is was possibly the nicest soup he’d ever eaten. Very high praise indeed, but I didn’t need much convincing. Soup is my love language. It’s warm and cozy for cold winter days, but also packed with vegetables and so usually pretty good for you. It’s easy to make and infinitely customizable based on what you already have in the kitchen. It’s also one of the least expensive meals you can make, I’m pretty sure this whole pot cost me less than €3. It’s often overlooked because it seems so simple, but really it is one of the most perfect foods. And this particular soup? This is one of the most perfect soups.
Butternut squash is definitely a vegetable in vogue at the moment, and for good reason. It has a rich, nutty taste, perfectly suited to fall and winter, and the bright orange color perks anything up. The squash is roasted to concentrate the flavors, and add a little smokiness from the oven. The tartness from the apple accents this beautifully, and it’s all rounded out by the musty, earthy sage.
I stayed close to the original recipes because it seemed pretty perfect, but there are some changes I would make for next time. Part of the point of the recipe is that by roasting the squash whole, you’re meant to avoid the hassle of prep work that the squash usually entails. I did this, but I found that with the extra time the hunks of squash took to cook through, it probably wasn’t worth it. Also, if you cut the squash into cubes, there’s more area to caramelize in the oven, which is a definitely bonus.
I also made some other, fairly predictable substitutions: using crème fraîche instead of cream, and garnishing with more crème fraîche and a crispy, butter fried sage leaf (just like in my butternut squash risotto). I ended up using chicken broth, because I had it around, but you could easily substitute vegetable broth, or even just more water to make this dish vegetarian. Whatever you choose, I hope you make it soon.
Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Sage
Adapted from Chow
2 medium butternut squash (about 1.8 kg or 4lbs total)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium tart and crisp apple (I used Granny Smith, but Pink Lady’s are also nice here)
8 sage leaves (if you really like sage, feel free to use more)
2.5 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
2.5 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup crème fraîche (recipe here)
For the Garnish (optional)
a few sage leaves per serving
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon crème fraîche per serving
Preheat the oven to 215°C (425°f). Peel and chop the butternut squash (follow this tutorial for guidance). Toss the butternut squash cubes with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Roast in the oven, stirring occasionally for 35-45 minutes, until many of the edges have caramelized.
While the squash is roasting, peel and core the apple, then dice it. Dice the onion, and rip the sage leaves into slightly smaller pieces. When the squash is ready, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the apple, onion, and sage and saute over medium heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the squash cubes and saute for a further few minutes.
Add the broth and water, and stir to combine everything. Turn the heat down to medium low, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to blend until the desired consistency (you can use a regular blender, but you have to remove the small cap in the lid and place a kitchen towel over it to release steam). I like mine to still have a few chunks in it, they make the texture more interesting. Stir in the crème fraîche, and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
For the garnish, heat the oil and butter in a small sauce pan over medium high heat. When it’s nice and hot, add the sage leaves. Flip them after 30 seconds, and fry them until crispy. Serve the soup in bowls, and add one more tablespoon of crème fraîche if that’s the kind of person you are (I am). Feel free to attempt to swirl it and be fancy. Top with several crispy sage leaves.