Friday, February 24, 2012

Squashed and Found (a recipe)

Today's Specials:  Desire for Comfort Food on a Snowy Day, garnished with a Handful of Warming Indian Spices.

Set to the Tune of:  Bon Iver's "Flume"

Well this is a first for me, Braisers.  Normally I take some pics, write some words and post some blogs...often a few days after the actual events being documented occurred.  But this is the first time in Braised in Captivity history (both months worth) that I am enjoying the fruits of my labor whilst writing the blog.

I like it already.

It all started last night.  I'm strolling though the produce section of my grocery store looking for some good ideas when I see these little acorn squash.  Only about the size of a baseball, they're kinda soft (not in a bad way) and really heavy for their size.  And it struck me....I haven't roasted me some squash in a long time.  It was time to change that.  It was when I realized that I had a few things in my fridge I needed to rid myself of that I came to this recipe.

And so I present to you, dear readers: Roasted Acorn Squash Soup.

Yer gonna need:
3 small Acorn Squash
4 Tbl Butter
1/2 of 1 Medium Onion, chopped
2 Tbl Chicken Base
1 Tsp (about 3 cloves) garlic, crushed
2 Tsp Ground Cumin
2 Tsp powdered Ginger, or 1 Tsp of freshly grated
2 Tsp Ground Coriander
1 Tsp Cinnamon
2 Tsp Tumeric
1 Tbl Curry Powder
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine (optional)
1 Pint Heavy Cream
Milk as needed (any % will do)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Ground clove to garnish (or nutmeg if you'd prefer)

special equipment:  Blender (either hand or countertop)
total cooktime: 1 hour (includes roasting squash)
yields about 1 1/2 liters - 4 to 6 servings

Step 1:  Melt your butter (either on the stove or in a little dish in the microwave), also go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2:  Halve your squash and using just a regular table spoon, scoop out all the guts.  These were nice and fresh, so this was really easy going.

Then spoon some of your butter into the cavities of your squash and using a pastry brush (or just your fingers, ya sissy) spread the butter all over the inner surface of the squash halves.  Usually the squash room temp or lower so the butter will actually re-solidify and stay in place.

 Next sprinkle some Kosher salt and a couple grinds of pepper.
Arrange them on a lined, rimmed baking sheet face down.  Then place them in your preheated oven.  

For how long?  Till they're done of course.

These took about a half an hour, but since were talking about an agricultural product, yours may vary.  But don't worry, the margin for error is pretty wide.  You'll know they're done when the flesh is soft and....well....cooked-feeling.  A little poke or pinch can let you know all you need to know.  If you pull them out and they're not completely done, you can finish in the microwave or by putting them back into the oven.  
When they come out, you'll be tempted to play around with em and pick em up and stuff.  Don't. The steam inside is still cooking them.  Plus they're way too hot to be able to handle for the next step, so just leave em alone until they're cool enough to handle.  

Another indicator is that they'll sort of deflate and get a little wrinkly.  They may also release a little fluid.  All totally normal and desirable.  You'll also notice the butter has browned a little bit and all of it smells amazing!

Congrats!  You've just roasted squash!  They're perfectly fine to be eaten right now and they'll be delicious, but we have grander goals in mind.

Which leads us to....

Step 3:  Using a spoon (sure, go ahead and use the one  you used to scoop out the squash guts), scrape out all the flesh and discard the skins.

Step 4:  Add your butter to your sauce pot and rewarm it until hot or any foaming subsides.  Then add your chopped onions and sautee.

Incidentally you can add carrots, celery, parsnips, peppers, or whatever else you happen to enjoy at this stage....but I didn't have any of that stuff hanging around so I stuck with just the onions.

Now, I like to have a little color on my onions for this dish, so I sautee until the onions are light brown around the edges.  

Next add the garlic, spices (except the clove), and chicken base.  Stir until you can smell the aromas of the spices and a 'nutty' butter smell.  

Step 5:  Deglaze with the white wine if using, and reduce.  You'll know you're in the right neighborhood when a spatula or spoon ran across the bottom of the pan leaves a trail that stays put.  Also notice we don't have anything sticking to the bottom....if there's any part of this that's tricky it's this.  Reducing till nearly dry without burning.  But I have faith in you guys.

If you're not using the wine, just go ahead and skip to...

Step 6: Add your cream and your roasted squash pulp.  Simmer for a few minutes (about 10) and poke around with a spoon until the squash softens even more and incorporates itself into the liquid a bit.  It'll still be very lumpy.  

This is also a great time to check your seasoning.  Add more of whatever you need to make it taste the way you want.  

Note: if  you're adding more of either the fresh garlic or ginger, you'll need to simmer until those ingredients are fully cooked.  Or you can use powdered.  

Step 7:  We're gonna blend this into rich, smooth, and creamy goodness.  I'm using an emersion blender because it was easiest for me...but you can toss all this into a regular blender and it'll be just as good if not better.  I like the hand blender because I can use it to add a little air into the mix to lighten the whole thing up.  I don't know that I would use a food processor as it doesn't get it quite as fine and smooth as a blender, but if you don't mind a little chunkiness in  your soup, I say go for it.  Add any milk you need to make the blending easier.  Ladle into bowls and you're ready to go.

I garnished with a little green onion and a couple sprinkles of the clove.  This is exactly what was needed on a chili February morning.

A few notes to remember:
*This procedure can be done with just about any winter squash (size and roasting times will vary)
*It's much easier to thin a too-thick soup than thicken a too-thin soup, so err on the side of too thick.  You can always add milk, stock or even water later on to thin out.
*I know it's Lent for some of you right now, and the chicken base may not fit in with your religious beliefs.  Not to worry, just sub vegetable base in for the chicken and you'll have the Pope's approval!

See ya next time, Braisers!!


  1. I wish I had a bowl of this without the meat base (no voodoo religious cult reasons) sitting in front of me. It looks wonderful!

  2. I like how you added the white wine and the indian seasonings. What a kick!

  3. I will definitely make this. Minus the dairy. I'm a sucker for soup.