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adapted from Gale Gand's Applesauce Cake 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened to room temperature 2 cups brown sugar (dark or light), ...

Monday, October 07, 2013

perfect fall butternut squash bisque

a rich, delicious squash bisque, redolent with the flavors of Fall. this would be wonderful served at the beginning of a Thanksgiving dinner, or anytime during the Fall/Winter seasons. be sure to look for the *asterisks to make it Paleo-compliant.
  • 2 butternut squash, ~ 2 pounds each?, cut in half from stem to blossom end, seeds removed
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter (*or coconut oil)
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced finely
  • 3-5 stalks celery (depending on size -- ideally, 5 of the paler, more tender inner stalks), diced finely
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground, dried thyme, or 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, minced (optional)
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 quart good chicken stock
  • 1-2 cups heavy cream (*or full-fat canned coconut milk)
  • (*optional: a few tablespoons of sour cream)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
to garnish:
  • 1 cup slivered almonds, squash seeds or pepitas toasted with a dab of oil (ideally, coconut oil, but olive oil or ghee will work, too), salt, pepper and paprika until golden brown, set aside to cool
  • (optional) a little bowl of fresh thyme leaves and/or finely slivered fresh sage leaves
preheat oven to 350. line baking sheets with parchment paper, lightly butter the paper and place squash on it, cut side down. roast in oven for 45 minutes - 1 hour, until done. remove from oven to cooling racks, flip cut side up and let cool while you prepare the onions.

while the squash is cooling, melt the butter over medium-high heat and sautee the onion with a pinch of salt. add the celery after about 5 minutes. reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until onion is translucent and slightly golden brown on the edges. add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.

with a good-sized spoon, scoop the butternut squash flesh out and place in a bowl, discarding the skins. add the squash flesh to the simmering soup mixture on the stove and allow to cook together for 5-10 minutes, to marry the flavors. turn off the burner, remove the bay leaves and set aside. either use an immersion (stick) blender, or remove soup in batches to a blender or food processor to puree until it's velvety smooth (it's much easier with the immersion blender; you will have to be very careful with a regular blender or food processor when pureeing hot soup, as it tends to expand the air in the blender and blow the lid off, making a big, potentially painful mess. you can get decent immersion blenders from under $20 now; I recommend them highly). if you've used a regular blender or food processor, return all the pureed soup to the pot (if you've used the recommended immersion blender, it's already in there). put the reserved bay leaves back in. add a cup of the cream and bring the soup to a simmer, stirring regularly. taste and assess. remove those pesky bay leaves again. add more chicken stock or some water if it's too thick; add more cream if it needs more richness; add the sour cream if it needs a hint of tartness (or save the sour cream to use as a garnish at the table, swirling it into each bowl before adding the almonds). adjust all seasonings; salt and pepper to taste. at this point, it should taste like much more than the sum of its parts; it should taste like a combination of the essence of Fall and Thanksgiving. serve with suggested garnishes and enjoy.

*note: to make a Paleo-compliant version, use coconut oil instead of butter to saute the onions and celery, substitute a good, creamy, full-fat coconut milk (or even just the cream that collects at the top of the can when you refrigerate it) for the heavy cream, and skip the sour cream. there's probably a non-dairy, Paleo-compliant sour cream substitute (coconut cream with a bit of lemon juice added, maybe?), but I haven't tasted one yet so have no recommendation. and the sour cream is SO very not necessary for this recipe. I'll be making a Paleo version next time!

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