I’ve always really wanted to like butternut squash but it has always vaguely disappointed me. The flavor is so mild that it disappears as soon as you combine it with anything interesting. I’ve tried several different kinds of recipes that include it and early on I resolved to immediately dismiss a recipe if it contained the words “peel and cube” the butternut squash. Too much work for not enough flavor.
Despite this, I want to love it. It’s got such a great orange color. It’s so healthy. Roasting it is a piece of cake, as long as you’ve got a knife sharp enough and big enough to get through the rind. But even when I roasted it, it was never as good as I wanted it to be. Last month, though, I finally, finally found a complete satisfying recipe that shows off the butternut squash flavor perfectly.
The Cook’s Illustrated magazines/cookbooks/website are the most perfect cooking reference I could ever imagine. They test the crap out of all the recipes they publish and even send them out to average people to test. So by the time the recipes make it into print, they’re darn near foolproof. I don’t subscribe, but I buy the annual hardback edition, which has all the year’s magazines, complete with an index. I’m on the Cook’s Illustrated email list. In their newsletters they always include links to old recipes and demonstration videos. I don’t usually have the patience to watch the videos, but this recipe, for Silky Butternut Squash Soup caught my interest. (I’d link to it, but I’ve lost the link. It was in the November 2001 issue of the magazine.)
For starters, there’s not much else in it except squash. Just some butter, a couple shallots, water, and a dash of cream. And salt. Love me some salt. My local market only had these cute little baby butternut squashes, so I bought three pounds worth. You chop the shallots and sauté them in the butter. Then get this, you add the seeds and strings out of the squash, and sauté those for a while. Turns out there’s more flavor in the guts than in the squash itself. Who knew?
Then you put in a bunch of water and steam the squash over this whole mess until it’s soft. After that all you have to do it strain the solids out of the liquid. You don’t use the solids, but you puree the now-soft squash with the liquid, pop it back in the pot, add salt and your dash of cream and there you go.
OH! The croutons!! I forgot to tell you about the croutons. Cinnamon. Toast. Croutons. Why did no one ever think of this before? They’re the best thing ever. They add just the right amount of spice to the soup, plus they make a pretty darn good snack.
The soup is lovely and smooth and creamy and orange. (Of course, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product before eating it all up.) I’m trying to add more orange to my life. I’m so grateful to Cook’s Illustrated for rescuing my relationship with butternut squash. Thanks Cook’s!