​Squash The Winter Blues This Holiday Season

andy Mueller

squash the winter blues this holiday season—andy mueller—nov 2020

Trying to make as few trips to the store as possible this year, I stock up on things that last. With Thanksgiving and Christmas so close together every year, I take advantage of what Mother Earth gives us before the frost closes the produce door for the season - all things squash.

Comfortable in both sweet and savory applications, the squash is now taking center stage at markets, grocery stores and roadside stands across the country. Known to Native Americans as one of the "Three Sisters", along with corn and beans, squash has been prized for its durability to be stored for long periods of time because of its hard shell that protects its creamy and nutty sweet texture inside.

I grew up with squash at the dinner table in various forms including sauteed, baked in a savory casserole, or my favorite presentation of halved acorn squash filled with diced apples, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. A Fall treat that was as good as any dessert I could think of.

As a chef, I have the privilege of being able to experiment with countless flavor profiles and preparations in search of that perfect combination of flavor and balance and squash has allowed me another direction in which to continue that culinary journey.

Of all the squash available, I tend to lean toward what I consider the most versatile of all in the Butternut squash. A tough outer shell protects the delicately flavored center and can be added as a replacement to dishes that call for potatoes to give a unique yet satisfying autumn flavor.

Butternut squash is best when cooked, and the longer you cook it, the softer it gets, making it quite versatile depending on the application. If I'm simply adding it to a broth based soup or a sauteed dish, I still want a bit of texture and resistance when I bite into it, so the cooking time will be much quicker than If it will be part of a sauce or soup that requires it to be pureed.

This recipe requires the squash to be cooked until soft as it will be pureed and cooked with spices, stock and cream. The garnish of Caramelized apples and curried cashews open up the profile and compliment the soup deliciously. A perfect starter or side for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly spray a 13 x 9 baking dish. Slice 2-3 lb. butternut squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, then place the squash in the baking dish flesh side down. Bake for about an hour - could be more depending on size. Check it at 45 minutes to see if it's soft yet. As soon as the squash is very soft. Remove it from the oven and let cool.

In a medium size pot, add:

3 cups chicken stock

2 cups heavy cream

Bring to a simmer - not a full boil.

When the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and place it in a large blender or food processor. Start pureeing the squash and slowly add half of the stock and cream mixture in small batches (1/2 cup at a time) so you don't have a squash volcano on your hands. Once the puree is smooth, transfer the pureed squash back into the pot with stock and cream, turn heat to low, then add:

1 tsp. sriracha or Tabasco sauce

1 tsp. creamy peanut butter

1/2 tsp. grated fresh ginger

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk ingredients together and slowly bring to a light simmer.

Caramelized apples -

In a saucepan over medium heat add:

1 Tblsp. butter

1 Tblsp. brown sugar

1 large honey crisp or other tart apple, peeled and diced

Cook for several minutes tossing to coat until the apples are caramelized on all sides.

Curried Cashews -

In a saute pan over medium heat add:

1 Tblsp. butter

1 Tblsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp curry powder

1 cup cashews

Cook for several minutes until cashews are nicely coated, transfer to a plate and let cool.

Serve the butternut squash soup in a bowl and garnish with a spoonful of caramelized apples and a spoonful of curried cashews. You can drizzle balsamic glaze over the top for a nice contrast in flavor if you wish - Enjoy!

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