Monday, December 28, 2009

Winter Squash Soup

These days, it seems that I just can't stay out of my own kitchen -- something that I attribute to the fact that for the first time in 10 years, I do not have an insanely high-stress job which requires me to slave away in someone else's kitchen for 80-plus hours a week. When I saw this squash at the market, the beauty in its gnarled ugliness was irresistable. At first, I couldn't bring myself to hack into it, but today, it practically begged me to turn it into soup.

I chose a turk's turban, but you can use any winter squash of a similar size. Sprinkling the onions with salt brings out moisture and allows them to cook without burning. Add a couple of pears to the mix to sweeten things up. To make the soup vegetarian, simply substitute water for the chicken stock -- although, I prefer the taste of a velvety stock. If you do not have a fine mesh sieve, don't fret; just be sure to blend the soup long enough to remove any lumps.

Take advantage of the last few days of Christmas lights, warm a crusty loaf, pour a glass of hearty red wine, and enjoy.

Serves 6

1 winter squash (about 4 pounds)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
salt, to taste
1 cup white wine
2 pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch ground nutmeg
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon sherry
1 bunch chives, finely chopped

1. Set the oven at 350 degrees.
2. Roast the entire squash on a baking sheet for 1 1/2 hours or until the squash is tender throughout.
3. Cut the squash in quarters. With a spoon, remove and discard the seeds. Scrape out and set aside the pulp.
4. In a large stock pot, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over high heat. Add the onions to the pot and sprinkle them with salt; stir well. Sauté for 5-10 minutes or until the onions are tender and have begun to color, stirring occasionally.
5. Deglaze the pot with 1 cup white wine. Bring the liquid to a boil, and reduce it by 2/3.
6. Add chicken stock, pear, and cooked squash. Stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid burning the bottom.
7. Season with cayenne, nutmeg, and sherry. Stir in yogurt.
8. Working in small batches, puree the soup in a blender or a food processor.
9. Pass the soup through a fine mesh sieve. Re-warm the soup if necessary.
10. Garnish each bowl with chives.

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