Butternut Squash Bisque with Nutmeg Crème Fraîche

by The Gilded Fork

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Bisque, as a soup, is commonly mistaken to mean “cream-based.”  However, bisque traditionally means a soup made from a vegetable purée.  Here we’ve used butternut squash to create a fantastic, rich, stock-based soup that can be prepared a multitude of ways:  Serve it as a main course with Honeyed Apples in an Aged Sherry Vinegar Sauce, as an elegant soup course with Spiced Crème Fraîche, or as a hearty side to a sandwich when served with Apple Cider Syrup.  However you present it, you’ll appreciate how easy this soup comes together.

Serves 4 as a main course

Ingredients

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 medium-large fresh butternut squash (about 4 lbs.), peeled, seeded, and diced to yield about 8 cups
Fleur de sel (sea salt)
Fresh ground pepper
¼ cup (about 1 small) red onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3 cups organic vegetable stock, divided

Preparation

In a large sauté pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat.  Add the squash and reduce the heat to medium.  Carefully toss the squash to coat it with butter and then season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash is softening and nicely caramelized.  Remove from the heat.

Place 1 tablespoon of butter in a soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and cook, stirring constantly, until translucent, about 2 minutes.  Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaves.  Stir and allow to cook for about 1 minute more.  Add the squash from the sauté pan and 2 cups of the vegetable stock.

Bring the mixture to a boil by raising the heat to high.  When the mixture has come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low or low and simmer, partially covered, for about 25 minutes.  The squash will be tender and losing its shape.  Remove from the heat.  Remove the bay leaf and the thyme sprigs.

Transfer the soup to a blender and process in small batches (we use the purée function) until silky smooth, adding up to an additional 1 cup of stock as needed to aid in the processing.  Use care when blending hot liquids, and keep the blender lid slightly ajar to prevent the heat from building and forcing the lid off.  Pour the bisque through a fine mesh sieve placed over a large saucepan (if serving immediately) or a clean container (if making ahead), and with the back of a ladle, gently push the bisque through the sieve.  Discard any of the remaining pulp.

Service

Finish the bisque:
1 tablespoon of butter
1 cup organic vegetable stock

Return the pot to the stove and heat gently over medium-low heat.  Stir in 1 tablespoon of butter, to enrich the bisque.  Whisk in additional vegetable stock to thin the bisque to a desired thick-soup consistency.  Ladle the bisque into heated serving bowls and garnish as desired. (See accompaniments below.)

Honeyed Apples in an Aged Sherry Vinegar Sauce

Ingredients

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 medium-sized, firm but ripe Gala apples, peeled, cored, cut into medium dice
1 tablespoon aged Sherry vinegar
3 sprigs fresh Thyme

Preparation

Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the honey and whisk together, allowing the mixture to bubble and begin to turn a dark, amber color, about 1 minute.  Add the diced apples and toss to coat the apples.  Reduce the heat to medium and allow to cook until the apples are richly glazed and slightly soft, about 3 minutes.  Add the aged sherry vinegar and toss to incorporate.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Add the thyme sprigs and toss again.  Allow to cool.  The sauce will thicken.

Service

Mound the diced apples in the center of a warmed soup bowl.  Pour the bisque around the apples.  Drizzle some of the pan sauce over the apples.  Garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.  Serve immediately.

Spiced Crème Fraîche
If crème fraîche is unavailable where you are, heavy whipping cream can be used as a substitute. Simply add it to the spice combination and whip.

Ingredients

½ cup crème fraîche
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preparation

In a medium bowl, whisk together the crème fraîche, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, allowing flavors to meld.  Whisk again before serving.

Service

Allow crème fraîche to come to room temperature and whisk to a thick sauce-like consistency.  Place the bisque in warmed soup bowls.  Drop small dollops of the crème fraîche around the bowls.  Use a toothpick to swirl designs in the crème fraîche.  Serve immediately.

Apple Cider Syrup

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups apple cider

Preparation

Place the apple cider in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Allow the cider to boil until reduced by almost two-thirds.  Remove from heat.  The liquid will become thicker as it cools.

Service

Place the bisque in a warmed soup bowl.  Drizzle a teaspoon of the apple cider syrup around the bowl.  Serve immediately.

Recipe by Donna Marie Zotter

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