Roasted Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup with Gruyère Croutons
Soup du Jour: “Soup is to the meal, what the hostess’ smile of welcome is to the party. A prelude to the goodness to come.” -Louis P. De Gouy
One beautiful, late afternoon this summer after several sets of tennis, Adam and I decided to have a leisurely weekend lunch al fresco at the club. We ordered cool drinks and slowly perused the menu under the welcomed shade of our table’s market umbrella. Although it was a sweltering day without as much as a wisp of breeze, the Roasted Baby Carrot and Brie Soup really caught my eye. “Wow,” I said to my husband as I took a frosty, refreshing sip of Chardonnay (and feeling incredibly French, by the way), “that soup sounds really interesting!”
A few minutes and a Chardonnay later, our server brought over my steaming mug and gently set it in front of me. As I waited for it to cool down a bit, I admired the beautiful color. The bright marigold orange was stunning. Just looking at that color made me happy. When I felt like I wasn’t risking third degree burns, I took a cautious spoonful. I let it roll around on my tongue and admired the soft sweetness of the carrots. The savory note of garlic and sautéed onions came through right away. As that warming, silky sip slid down the back of my throat, I tasted butter. I closed my eyes in immense satisfaction. Yes, definitely butter. I smiled wickedly and raise a single eyebrow. And cream. I couldn’t get my spoon back to the bowl quickly enough for more. I had to have another discerning bite despite the few beads of perspiration that dotted my forehead.
The only criticism I had about the soup was the underwhelming presence of the Brie. It wasn’t there at all, frankly, which was a pity. Especially since it got top billing. I was really looking forward to that plump, nutty note but the execution just fell short. But, hey, you know what? That was fine and dandy with me because the soup’s flavor profile stood on its own. At first, I thought the chef must’ve had some big ol’ kahunas for being so bold as to offer such cold weather comfort in the oppressive heat of August. But after sopping up every last sunny drop (and dabbing the sweat from my brow), I shrugged to myself saying, “90 degrees, Schameeze. This soup is fabulous. Hot or cold.” (The weather, not the soup.)
- For the soup:
- 1 large butternut squash (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon red cayenne pepper
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 cup half and half
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- For the croutons:
- ½ baguette, thinly sliced
- extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 3 ounces Gruyère, grated
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together the squash, carrots, butter, 1 tablespoon olive oil, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet and spread to a single layer. Roast until the squash and carrots are tender, about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice. Set aside.
- In a Dutch oven over medium, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil; add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the broth, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Add in the roasted vegetables and purée the soup in batches in a blender (or do like I do and use an immersion blender). Add in the half and half and maple syrup; simmer over medium-low until soup begins to thicken. Taste for salt and pepper.
- To make the croutons, preheat the broiler setting. Place the baguette slices on a large rimmed baking sheet, drizzle each piece with some olive oil and broil until slightly golden. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle over a little cheese on each slice. Return to the oven and broil until the cheese has melted. Serve immediately with the soup.
While we all seem to agree that it’s not a good idea to play with matches, it’s incredibly useful to have matchbooks sitting around the photo studio. Why? They can level things, and I don’t mean buildings. The bowl in the first shot above would not sit flat, and looked tilted in the shot. A lot of the time this can be fixed by either tilting the camera in such a way as to make the offending item square up with the edge of the viewfinder, but in this case the soup was clearly seen to be unevenly distributed in the bowl making one edge considerably smaller than the other, looking obviously lop-sided. Solution: matchbook. Matchbooks are small wedges that can slip easily and unobtrusively beneath plates and bowls and cups to square them with the camera. Two things are important here: 1. Double check to make sure no corner of the matchbook is peeking out and most importantly 2. burn off the matches in the book to ensure that no friction between unspent matches causes them to ignite. Remove the burnt matches for a thinner wedge and leave the burnt matches in the book for a thicker one. It ain’t pretty, I know, but it works!
Content and potography © 2011 Hutchstone, LLC