This basic recipe for butternut squash soup does not take too much to release the wonderful flavors of the squash. However, it does allow for a lot of variations. If you want to, you can add pretty much any root vegetable you want to spruce up the flavors (carrots, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, anything). You could also take out the meat to make it vegetarian (in fact, the picture below is of a vegetarian version of this recipe that I made in culinary school). You can make this soup days in advance (even weeks, though we don’t have those anymore) and freeze it, so you just defrost it on Thanksgiving and eat. There are just so many options. But, here is the basic recipe. Have fun being creative!
One serving suggestion is to have this soup ready when people start to get hungry, or when guests arrive. Just set out bowls (or even more informal, mugs) and spoons next to the pot in the kitchen (or living room if your kitchen is like mine and too small) and let people help themselves. That way, your guests have something to munch while you’re pulling out the food from the oven and getting things on the table, but they don’t feel awkward eating the appetizer while you’re running in and out of the kitchen.
Butternut Squash Soup
olive oil for sauteing
1 cup cubed smoked ham
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery root, peeled and chopped (or, if you can’t find celery root, you can use regular celery, though the flavors are different)
1 stem leek, chopped
2 Tbsp dry white wine
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 medium-sized butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and chopped
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable, if making vegetarian)
1 large bay leaf
chopped parsley for garnish
1. In a large soup pot, brown the smoked ham in the olive oil. Remove from the pan and set aside. If making in advance, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until serving.
2. Add a little more oil to the pan and cook the onions, celery root, and leeks in olive oil until the onions are clear but not browned. Add the white wine and cook a minute until it reduces. Then add the garlic and cook for another thirty seconds to release the aromas.
3. Add the butternut squash, broth, and bay leaf to the vegetables, and cook until the squash is tender (about thirty minutes).
4. Remove the bay leaf and carefully, using an immersion blender, blend the ingredients until smooth.
5. Serve in bowls and garnish each dish with a few cubes of the browned ham and sprinkle with parsley. Other optional toppings are sour cream, cinnamon, or homemade croutons (taking your favorite cookie cutter, cut out shapes in bread and brown in butter on the stove).