Monday, October 24, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage Browned Butter and Candied Ginger

Squash your boring dinner routine! Cara Valla, sous chef at San Francisco's Chiaroscuro, is about to share the secrets of her phenomenal butternut squash soup:

We are coming into winter squash season and I cannot help but get excited! Today we are sticking to a limited ingredient list that will get you in and out of the grocery store quickly so you can savor some time spent at home as the oven warms the house and some good food and good friends go to work at warming the soul.

Butternut Squash Soup
            2 ½ lbs. butternut squash
            1 apple, thinly sliced
            2 Tbsp. olive oil
            2 shallots, finely chopped
            small piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped (the size of about 4 quarters stacked on top of
     each other)
            ¼ cup apple brandy or dark rum
            4 cups stock (vegetable stock, chicken stock or water; depending on dietary
            1 sprig thyme
            Salt and pepper to taste

- Chop butternut squash and apple into 1 inch cubes or smaller
- Season and sautee squash and apple in olive oil with chopped shallot and ginger until slightly browned
- Deglaze with brandy or rum
- Add stock and thyme, cover and let cook about 20 -30 minutes or until squash is softened
- Blend all soup in blender, or in food processor
- Heat to reduce if needed and season with salt and pepper
- To serve, ladle soup into warmed bowls, top each serving with a Tbsp of Browned Butter (recipe below), a sprinkling of Candied Ginger (store-bought or home-made - recipe below) and a dollop of Savory Whipped Cream (recipe also below). A nice hunk of crusty bread and some parmesean wouldn’t hurt either!
Buon appetito!

Sage Browned Butter
  For each portion of soup you serve you will use about 1 Tbsp of butter but you can make as much of this butter as you want and even reserve it to add flavor to dishes later!

½ cup butter (if using unsalted butter just add a pinch of salt when heating)
5 large sage leaves, chopped
a touch of an acidic element (white balsamic, champagne vinegar or even a little white wine work best)

- Cut butter into cubes and place in pan over medium heat with chopped sage
- Heat until butter just begins to brown (there will literally be flecks of brown from
the butter solids that have begun to cook)
- When the butter is browned, remove from heat and add in a touch of acid (white wine, citrus juice, or vinegar) The acid will halt the browning process so the butter does not burn!

Candied Ginger
  This recipe is very simple but it requires the use of a Silpat, which is a plastic-like pad that is used to line cookie sheets when doing certain types of pastry work. It is ideal for this type of recipe because the candied ginger and its cooking liquid need to cook before eating and if left to cool on parchment it will become a sticky mess, or if left to cook on a sheet pan and you will end up prying ginger pieces off with a spatula. If you do not have a Silpat this is an excellent addition to any kitchen!
            1 cup ginger
            ¾ cup white sugar
            1 qt. water
- Peel and cut ginger into bite-size pieces. Thickness should be about 5 mm  (keep in mind that ginger is very fibrous so whenever possible cut across the grain!)
- Disolve sugar in water and add ginger.  Boil ginger in sugar water for at least 45 minutes. If water reduces too much, add a little more.
-  When ginger is tender in texture and has lost its aggressive spice, strain out and let cool on silpat for half an hour.
-  When ginger is room temperature, toss in granulated sugar and leave out to dry at room temperature overnight.

Savory Whipped cream
½ cup heavy cream (this cream will more than double in volume)
pinch of salt
black pepper
lemon zest from ½ lemon
- Whip cream vigorously in a chilled bowl until soft peaks form.
- Season with salt and pepper and zest from lemon and dollop on soup right before serving.
- Since there is no cream in the soup this last minute addition lets you accommodate for dairy allergies/intolerances and gives a beautiful visual affect as well!


  1. I know, right? I would happily plan my life around the making and consuming of this soup. Go, Cara!