Monday, November 23, 2009

115. Squash Soup with Cinnamon-Sugar Croutons

Date Cooked: October 29, 2009
Page: 51
Rating: B-

I know I have complained about this before but soups just aren’t that magical to me. I never crave soup. Ever. That does not mean that I don’t enjoy a fine bowl of hearty soup every now and then, but given a choice of soup or salad, it’s almost always salad… except at Swiss Chalet or if it is French Onion soup.

This fine weekday evening I had a butternut squash that didn’t get used at Thanksgiving and I wasn’t really sure what the longevity of squash was, so I figured after three weeks it probably needed to get used. I wanted to try something different with it and I figured a butternut squash soup would be interesting. I always enjoy it when served at weddings, and I believe those are the only occasions I have ever eaten it.

This particular recipe also includes some cinnamon-sugar croutons. So I will start with this process. Some plain ole whole wheat bread slices were cubed and then tossed with cinnamon, sugar and melted butter. I spread them out on a parchment lined baking sheet and baked in the oven for… a lot longer than the recipe suggests. In order for my croutons to become sufficiently dry and crispy I had them in the oven for three times longer than recommended, 8-10 minutes became 30 minutes. That’s fine though because in this soup making process that was the least of my concerns. Every step was an arduous task that pressed my limits of patience and sanity. Let’s start at the beginning.

The first step in this recipe is to cut the squash in half and then scoop out the seeds and pulp. I have never found cutting a butternut squash in half difficult. I have never needed a mallet or hammer. I have always used a large heavy knife though. So I split the squash and scooped out the innards and set everything aside. I was going to need the innards… innards, what a great word. I sautéed a minced shallot in butter and then added the seeds and pulp until it was fragrant. I then filled my pot with 6 cups of water, brought it to a boil and steamed the squash halves. That sounds fantastically easy. It wasn’t.

My little steamer insert was entirely too small to hold even one half of my medium sized squash. My steam cooker was not much larger. So I peeled and cubed the squash and then separated the squash into two batches. One went into the steam cooker, the other in the steamer basket over the boiling innards water. I reduced the steaming time since I figured the cubed squash would cook quicker. I was right. Now begins the fun part…

I strained the steaming liquid through a mesh strainer and then tossed the solids. I was then supposed to begin blending the squash in batches in a blender using the reserved liquid to make it nice and smooth. What a piece of crap my blender is. Mmmm let’s see. Put squash in blender, add some liquid, press on, watch blades spin uselessly while pureeing about a tablespoon of squash at the bottom of the blender. My blender would not circulate the squash. I spent several minutes scraping the side, adding more liquid, nothing would get it to move. Finally I dumped everything into a large pot and pulled out my immersion blender, stuck it in the squash, hit the on button, and watched squash sail across the kitchen. I wanted to laugh except I had to clean it up (except for the floor, that’s the dog’s job). I was pretty frustrated at this point. Needless to say it didn’t get much better but I did manage to get the pot of squash pureed.

I heated the pureed squash on the stove and stirred in some heavy cream and brown sugar. When the soup was hot I served it with some of the croutons on top.

Rating: B-. If I was to solely base this on the process of making this soup with the tools I have on hand I would fail it. But this is not about my personal animosity to making butternut squash soup. It’s about the flavor of the soup. It was good. The croutons add a nice textural contrast to the creamy soup, as long as you eat quickly. Once the croutons got soggy it wasn’t quite as appealing. In fact I had to concentrate in order to swallow each mouthful. It tasted great but my body was trying to rebel against the creamy savory soup with soggy wet sweet lumps in it. After the first bowl I ended up adding more of the steaming liquid to make it even smoother. This improved things… for other people. I only ate one bowl of it. The funny thing about this recipe is that I didn’t hate it… it just wasn’t really that enjoyable for me. Everyone else really liked it though.

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