Butternut squash soup is the quintessential soup for Thanksgiving. It wears a pale autumn-orange shade, is sweet, warm, and comforting in flavor. But to complete the magical trifecta, the texture must be nothing less than perfecta! So puree it well and pass the soup through a drum sieve. You will be rewarded with perfection.

Yield: 6 appetizer servings

Equipment

roasting pan or half sheet tray
chef’s knife
cutting board
tinfoil
wooden skewer
measuring cups and spoons
small bowls
large heavy bottomed saucepan
long handled wooden spoon
medium bowl with fine mesh drum sieve/tamis
hand held burr blender, food processor, and/or blender
pastry scraper or large rubber spatula
small fine wire whisk
small rubber spatula
small sauce pan small wooden spoon
nutmeg grater or fine-edge microplane
soup ladle
medium ice cream scoop

Ingredients

For roasting the squash:
1 large or 2 small butternut squash
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground allspice berries
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. Madeira

For preparing the soup base:
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 Cup chopped onion
½ Cup peeled, chopped carrot
½ Cup washed, chopped whites of leeks
1 ½ tsp. minced garlic

For the soup:
4 Cups chicken broth
2 Cups water
½ Peeled Idaho potato, chopped
2 Tbsp. Madeira
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the whipped chevre:
½ Cup fresh young chevre
2 Tbsp. heavy cream

For serving:
1 Tbsp. fine bread crumbs
½ tsp. butter
1/8 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

Method
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Halve the squash (or squashes) and discard the seeds. Rub with oil. Sprinkle with dry ingredients. Sprinkle with Madeira. Place on a roasting pan or sheet tray. Bake, loosely covered with tinfoil, for about an hour. Test with wooden skewer. Bake further if needed. The squash should be very tender.

While the squash is roasting, prepare the soup base. Over moderate heat, add oil to a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the chopped vegetables. Sweat over moderate heat, stirring to prevent scorching. When the onion and carrots are softening and the leeks well wilted, add the garlic. The heat should be moderate and the vegetables will exude liquid.

When the squash is tender, scrape the flesh into the vegetable saucepan and stir well to combine. Add the liquids and seasoning. Stir and finish cooking, partially covered, at medium-low heat (about 30-45 minutes). When all is very tender, taste for seasoning.

Cool the soup in preparation for pureeing and sieving. To do this quickly, transfer the soup to cold containers and place them in a cold water bath, or fill the sink halfway with cold water and place the soup pan in the cold water to help cool the soup. (If you’re prepping the soup ahead of time, once it’s cool it can be refrigerated until you’re ready to move to the next step.)

While the soup is cooling, set up a fine mesh drum strainer/tamis sieve in a bowl slightly larger than the sieve so it sits comfortably.

Puree the soup to very fine using a food processor and/or blender or a hand held burr mixer. If the soup is too dense, dilute it with a little cold water or cold chicken stock. Taste and do the final seasoning.

Process the soup in small batches and transfer to the sieve. Using the straight side of a pastry scraper or rubber spatula, scrape the puree through the tamis to the bowl beneath. Keep an eye on it so the level of the liquid beneath does not touch the mesh.

Transfer the soup to a plastic container to refrigerate, or if serving immediately, pour into a clean sauce pan to reheat.

For the whipped chevre, whip the cheese till light and fluffy with a fine wire whisk. (For larger amounts whip in a mixer.)  In a separate small bowl, whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. Using a small rubber spatula, fold the cream into the chevre. Refrigerate till ready to serve. At that point, bring it out into room temperature a little while before serving—you want to have a pleasing contrast of warm and cool, but not refrigerator-cold.

For the crumbs, heat the butter in a very small pan. Add the crumbs and toast till light golden. Add the cocoa and nutmeg and reserve until serving.

To serve, reheat the soup over gentle heat, keeping an eye out to make sure it doesn’t boil. (Boiling will coagulate the proteins which will fleck the soup and make it unsightly.)

Ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Place a tablespoon-sized scoop of whipped chevre into the center of the bowl and dust with the spiced crumbs.

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