Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato, and Garlic with Caramelized Onion Soup

First, I really need to come up with a shorter name for this soup. Second, as an introductory note, I don't measure most things when cooking, so what I'm about to share is mostly estimates. Cooking, to me, is an art, while baking is a science (and thus needs accurate measurements).

Anyway, I mentioned on facebook sometime in the recent past that I had made delicious soup. Well, I'm finally getting around to blogging about said soup. More accurately, I'm going to share the "recipe." I put recipe in quotes because I made it up, and per the note above, did not measure most ingredients. So, here goes...

2-3 pounds butternut squash, "peeled" and chopped
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 bulb garlic (yes, I really like garlic)
3 cups stock (I used homemade veggie stock that Corinne made, but other stocks, or even water, would probably work)
2 medium sweet onions, chopped
Olive Oil

Salt (I used fresh ground sea salt)

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2) Peel off the outer papery layers from the bulb of garlic. Chop a small bit off of the pointy end, and stick, chopped side down, into some olive oil. Set aside.
3) Hack the skin off of the butternut squash, as there really isn't a good way to peel one. Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and "guts," and then chop the rest into smallish pieces. Smaller pieces will roast faster and more evenly, but you really do not need to cut it too small.
4) Peel and chop (around the same size as the squash) the sweet potato.
5) Put the sweet potato and butternut squash into glass baking dishes, trying to keep it to a thin layer (I had to use two in the end)
6) Drizzle (liberally--I tend to use lots of olive oil, but I think that's the Italian in me) the sweet potato and squash with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander. Toss to coat.
7) Take the garlic out of the dish, and thoroughly coat with olive oil (I just rolled it around in the dish, but I've used a pastry brush to apply olive oil in the past). Wrap the garlic in foil.
8) Put the baking dish(es) and the wrapped garlic in the oven. Roast for about 45 minutes, making sure the pieces are nice and tender. You can stir it once or twice during this time to ensure even roasting.
9) In the mean time, heat some oil in whatever pot you will eventually use for the soup. When the oil is warm, add the onions. Cook over medium to medium high heat. The goal here is to caramelize the onions. While I've never run in to any issues, apparently this is harder than it looks. So, here are some tips: use a decent amount of olive oil (butter works too), stir immediately to coat the onions, you do not want to saute the onions so gradually lower the heat as the onions cook, finally, the more the onions cook the more you will need to stir to avoid over cooking/burning/sauteing. The onions should gradually turn translucent and then, after some time, start to turn a caramel. If they don't change color, don't worry. You'll know by the smell (sweet and smokey) that they are caramelizing.
10) When the squash, sweet potatoes, and garlic are done, remove from oven. Let the garlic cool (or, work quickly with reckless disregard for your fingers...not that I would ever do that *looksinnocent*), if possible, let the garlic cool unwrapped. Once the garlic cools, remove the cloves from the peel/covering (at this point they should come out with very little effort).
11) Add the squash, sweet potato, and garlic to the onions in the pot. Season with a little more salt and pepper, as well as cinnamon and nutmeg. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes to let the flavors blend.
12) Add the stock and simmer for 25 minutes.

13) Remove from heat. Let cool. Blend (I left it slightly chunky as I liked having a few pieces of squash and sweet potato, thoroughly roasted, left in the soup) to desired texture. If you have an immersion blender, this is pretty easy. If not, let cool longer and blend, in batches if necessary, in a blender.

14) Return to pot (if you used a blender), warm it up to taste, and serve. This soup is really good with bread.

Thoughts: I had considered adding a splash of white wine when I add everything to the pot, prestock, but didn't. I still think it would work well with the soup. A possible alteration would be to use some cream or milk, added after the soup is blended. However, because of Alex's dairy intolerance, I didn't try this. The soup was rich, with well-blended roasted flavors. Moreover, the cumin and coriander worked amazingly well with the cinnamon and nutmeg. It seems that adding these seasonings at different times allowed the flavors to seep in and ultimate layer well together.


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