So, confession time. Until quite recently, I was pretty sure I didn’t like butternut squash soups. Friends would tell me “oh, I have the best recipe!,” or they’d tell me “you should really try the butternut squash soup at this new place downtown,” or many variations on that theme, and I’d dutifully go and try those soups. And almost inevitably, the bowl that arrived in front of me would be roughly the same: thick as wallpaper paste, and sweetened to within an inch of its life with brown sugar.
And, y’all… no. Just no.
If you like your sugary wallpaper pastes, please don’t let me stop you. You do you, live your sugary truth, etc. But if I order soup I’d like to receive a liquid, and I’d really prefer that it not make my teeth feel fuzzy. (I’ve got desserts for that.) Eventually, however, I realized that I didn’t object to a soup made from butternut squash, per se, but rather to the thing we here in the States tend to mean by “butternut squash soup.”
And so I went back to the drawing board, leaving the brown sugar and pumpkin pie spices in the cupboard. And you know what? It turns out that when you take butternut squash — a winter squash I rather like — and combine it with savory soupy things, I’m a fan. I know, shocking! (This is rather like when I discovered that I don’t dislike sweet potatoes so much as I dislike candied-yams-with-marshmallows, but that’s another story.)
Because, you see, butternut’s natural sweetness is the absolute perfect foil to salty ham and pungent scallions. And though I’ve pureed the squash, it’s mixed in with enough stock that it makes a full-bodied soup without seizing up entirely. All together, it makes a soup that wouldn’t be out of place on any Southern or a Midwestern table; it has the simple depth of flavor that I think of as characteristic of those cuisines. Methinks it may be time to snag up a passel of butternut squashes at the farmers market before it shuts down for the season — I see a lot of butternut squash soup sustaining me through Thanksgiving and beyond.
Butternut squash soup with ham and scallions
Butternut squash soup for people who think they don’t like butternut squash soups: salty and savory, rich with green onion and studded with chewy ham. Just right for the slow creeping-in of sweater weather.
2-3 lb butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1″ cubes
6 c chicken stock
1 Tbsp bacon grease (or another cooking fat)
12 oz ham, chopped
2 c chopped scallion, both green and white parts (from 6 big scallions or 12 small)
2 cl garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring the squash and stock to a boil in a large saucepan, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the squash is tender.
Meanwhile, heat the bacon fat in a heavy skillet and fry the ham over high heat until it has given off its moisture and begun to brown, 5-10 minutes. Add the scallions and garlic and continue cooking until all the greens are wilted.
When the squash is tender, blend the soup, either with an immersion blender or in batches in a standard blender. (If you’re not familiar with how to blend hot liquids in a standard blender, see these notes to avoid a messy/painful incident.)
Add the fried ham mixture to the soup and return to heat, simmering for 5-10 minutes to meld the flavors. Add salt and pepper to taste — if your stock is salted, you will likely not need any salt, and I like about a teaspoon of black pepper, but use your best judgment. Serve and enjoy!
This soup is rather more light-bodied than many butternut soups. I find the thickness of many such soups to be off-putting, but if you prefer that thickness, just reduce the amount of stock a bit.
If you like a creamy flavor in your squash soups, feel free to add heavy cream, 1/4 to 1/2 cup.
You should totally add something spicy to this. Some minced hot pepper, some chile-garlic paste, some red pepper flakes, even some hot sauce. (This only just occurred to me while I was doing the finals edits on the post, and I’m rather annoyed that I didn’t think of it till now. What’s wrong with me?!)
This is, obviously, not a vegetarian soup, but it’d be fairly simple to vegetarianize it by omitting the ham and using vegetable stock and olive oil.