Hands down, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. A day devoted to the 4 F’s (that’s Food, Family, Friends and Football!) is pretty much my definition of a perfect day.. especially if I am doing the cooking! In my family, we’ve always believed in “the more the merrier” and Thanksgiving is no exception. To me this is what the holiday is all about – inviting family, friends and friends of friends to come and join us around the table to eat, to talk, to laugh and to celebrate all of our many blessings. However, it can be a little challenging in the food department. Do I need a 20 lb. turkey or 25 lb turkey? And what am I going to do if EVERYONE I invited shows up??? So this week I’ll be sharing some recipes, tips and tricks on how I deal with this so that you are truly thankful for the day and not only thankful that it is over!
As a personal chef I do quite a few parties where I don’t know the exact head count – or rather the “exact” head count isn’t what I end up with. Like every good caterer though, I always have a fall back plan – a stash of nibbles that I can pull out at a moment’s notice to fill in and expand my menu. For my own events, I do the same thing so that I am not stressing when that friend of my Aunt Ethel shows up or my oldest comes home with “just” few friends! And that is where this soup comes in.
Ok, confession time here. I have never been a huge fan of Butternut Squash soup. I’ve tried many and for the most part they were all too sweet for my taste – until this one. To me, this one is darn near perfect – the inherent sweetness of the butternut squash is tempered by the nutty and earth flavors of acorn and pumpkin squash. Roasting the squash concentrates and deepens the flavors yielding soup that is silky, rich and satisfying. Seasoned with a little salt, pepper and nutmeg this soup is a versatile base that you can “gussy up” to go with just about any menu or any taste. Like it a bit sweeter ? Add a dollop of creme fraiche and drizzle of maple syrup or honey. Like it a bit on the spicy side? Add a little chile powder and/or tabasco and garnish with mexican crema and toasted pepitas. Looking for something a little more exotic? Stir in some madras curry powder and garnish with a little plain yogurt and some roasted chickpeas. Or, you could do what I did – make Mollie Katzen’s Walnut Pesto and drizzle a little walnut oil on top – the nuttiness of the walnuts echoes the nutty flavor of the soup and the fresh basil complements the soup’s slightly sweet notes. To me, this soup epitomizes fall food and is goes perfectly with the turkey and all the trimmings.
As promised, here are some holiday tips!
1. This soup freezes perfectly. Make it now and put it in the freezer. If you find you need another dish to serve, you’ve got one – just take it out the night before and let it thaw in the fridge!
2. Worried about how to fit one more dish on that crowded stove? Try this! Re heat the soup on the stove (before cooking your other dishes) or the microwave and transfer to a slow cooker.
3. Don’t like the look of your slow cooker? use an insulated thermos and set out mugs or bowls and the soup garnishes on a tray.
Stay tuned, more tips and tricks coming on Wednesday!
Three Squashes Soup
- 1/4 cup olive or canola oil
- 1 white acorn squash, quartered with seeds removed
- 1 small sugar pie pumpkin, quartered with seeds removed.
- 1 butternut squash, quartered with seeds removed
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
- 2 large stalks of celery, diced
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup sherry
- 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- salt and white pepper to taste
Mollie Katzen’s Walnut Basil Pesto
- 3 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 1/3 cup toasted walnuts
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Directions for Soup:
1. Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Line two sheet pans with foil. Place squash, skin side down onto pans and rub with 2 Tbsp. oil. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Put squash into oven and roast until squash is tender and browned – about 30 – 40 minutes.
4. While squash is roasting, pour remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot.
5 heat oil over medium heat and add onion, carrots and celery. Stir vegetables to coat with oil. Cover and cook vegetables until softened by not browned, about 8 – 10 minutes. Set aside.
6. When squash is cooked and cool enough to handle, scoop flesh from squash quarters and add to pot with vegetables. Add stock, sherry and nutmeg. Stir, breaking up squash with a spoon.
7. Bring soup to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered for approximately 30 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.
8 Puree soup using either a handheld immersion blender, regular blender or food processor. Allow soup to cool somewhat before blending – use caution – hot liquids expand when blended!
9. Season to taste with salt and white pepper. If soup is too thick, thin with a little more stock or water.
TIP: To rapidly cool soup prior to blending put a stopper in one side of a clean sink. Add about 4 inches of ice and cold water. Place pot into ice bath and stir soup!
Directions for Pesto
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil, garlic and walnuts with the olive oil. Blend until a thick paste forms.
2. Add the parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Blend until parmesan cheese is thoroughly incorporated.
3. Transfer to a bowl and serve. If not using immediately, cover with a layer of olive oil and refrigerate.