Butternut Squash Chowder
Our family loves this soup on a crisp fall day when energetic children and adults all need a little more taste and warmth to satisfy their hunger. This recipe make use of butternut squash pure, but here I finish the soup with a nice hearty helping of chowder ingredients: potatoes, cream, and bacon. This recipe can be made meat-free by excluding the bacon too!
BUTTERNUT SQUASH CHOWDER
2 medium butternut squash, halved lengthwise
(optional) 4 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch strips
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage, plus extra for garnish
2 russet potatoes (or sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 quart (4 cups) low-sodium chicken broth, homemade or store-bought
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil.
Lay the butternut squash halves face down on the foil. Prick the skin of the squash with a fork in several places. Bake for 45 minutes, or until tender. Set aside to cool.
Place a large, heavy soup pot of Dutch oven over medium heat and add the bacon. Cook, stirring frequently, until crisp (about 5 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a pepper towel-lined plate and set aside.
Pour off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot and return to medium heat. Add the onion, celery, bay leaf, and sage and cook, stirring occasionally, just until the vegetables are tender but not browned (about 5-6 minutes). Stir in the potatoes and cook for 3 minutes more.
Add the wine and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring to scrape up the browned bits. Add the broth, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, partially covered, until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
Remove any seeds or stringy membranes from the butternut squash halves and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. With a potato masher, mash until smooth. Stir the squash puree and reserved bacon into the soup pot, bring to a simmer, and let cook 2-3 minutes, just to blend the flavors. Stir in the cream and taste for seasoning; adjust the salt and pepper as necessary. Discard the bay leaf. Ladle chowder into warm bowls and garnish with finely chopped fresh sage.
Tip: Make the soup one day in advance, up to but not including the step when you add the cream; cool, cover, and refrigerate. When ready to serve, reread the soup and add the cream.