Monday, November 22, 2010

Acorn squash soup

Making the best of leftovers.

It's really hard to take a decent picture of soup on a cellphone.

This is basically a different sort of what'cha'got soup. Normally, I'd throw it all into a minestrone sort of deal or maybe into a Gypsy Stew*, but today, I didn't have the right ingredients for either of those things, so I went for the Ally Method of what'cha'got soup making. I had 2 very old acorn squash, one fire-baked potato, one fire-roasted onion, some shallots, some garlic, some milk, some stock cubes, and a selection of spices and herbs**.

The method!
As usual in situations like this, I didn't measure anything, so you'll have to eyeball it.

Cut the acorn squash in half, clean out the seeds and the worst of the fibers, and microwave for about 6 or 8 minutes under damp paper towels until soft enough to scoop out.

While that's nuking, sautee your fire-roasted onions (previously cooked for about a half hour in in tinfoil in the embers of a fire pit), your shallot and your two or so cloves of garlic in a mix of olive oil and butter until everything is sweet and caramelized. The roasted onion gets a jump on that, but if you don't have one, you can caramelize from raw, it'll just take longer.

Put your stock cubes in hot water and make it into stock. I had one each of veggie, beef and chicken, and added five cups of boiling water (which is one cup less than the stock instructions called for, but that's how big by bowl was and it seems fine).

Scoop out all the meat from the squash and just drop it right into the onions. Don't burn yourself too much. Stir it all around and mash it up some with the spoon. Chop up the old baked potato with most of the skin taken off, and throw that in, too.

Add all the broth, stir it up real good, and mash it some more. I used a potato masher. Start seasoning. I have no idea how much I threw in, but it was about two rounds of the following: Fresh cracked black pepper, sea salt, thyme, a little saffron (this only went in once because it's expensive and I don't have much), cinnamon, nutmeg, five spice powder, sage, cayenne, bay leaf, . Old squash are apparently not as sweet as fresh, so I added some wildflower honey (local, of course, because I'm a honey snob). Cook it a lot.

While it's cooking, periodically mash it up more and stir it vigorously to get it all breaking down. Check on flavorings. It should be sweet and savory.

Mine started burning on the bottom of the pan, and that really just added to the roasty flavor and gave it a nice orangy-brown color, but I wouldn't let it burn too much.

Once everything starts looking like it's not going to mash up any more without help, you can blenderize it or use one of those motorboat blenders. Our blender was mouldy and we don't have a motorboat, so I ran the whole giant batch through a fine-mesh sieve***, which took way too long and used up, like, three mixing bowls, but came out with a nice texture.

Throw it all back into the pot, stir it until it's smooth and check on seasoning. Add about 2/3 to a whole cup of milk (less if you have cream) and some more butter, and heat it back up until the butter is totally melted.

Gobble it all up like woah. Perfect fall soup, and would likely work with almost any squash, or sweet potatoes, or root veggies. Ally frequently makes her's curried, and that would have been nice here, too, except I unaccountably couldn't find the curry powder, so I went for thanksgivingy seasonings instead.

*Gypsy Stew is defined by old room mates as anything you can beg, borrow or steal, thrown into a soup pot. In practice, it's usually chicken or veggie broth based, and almost always thickened with rice and beans, and usually eaten communally out of small cups with many servings.
**I think you can judge how much people like cooking and eating by how many spices they have. Our collection outgrew anything as simple as a spice rack and now resides in the entire knife drawer beside the stove. We have literally dozens of distinct herbs and spices, almost all bought individually for specific meals we've been making over the last few years, not as kits or anything like that.
***Someone should buy me a hand-powered food mill for Christmas. Or an immersion blender, but I kind of like the freedom of old-fashioned tools.

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