Brown Butter Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

5Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

Have you ever made brown butter before? Well…you might want to try it tonight. Blizzard 2016 is in full swing on Long Island. Everyone is hunkered down in their homes, relaxing and enjoying time with family. Make them happy tonight and break out the butter!! To make brown butter, aka “beurre noisette,” you start by melting butter over medium heat. Swirl the butter around in the pan often to be sure it is cooking evenly. As it melts, the butter will begin to foam. The color will change from yellow to golden to a warm brown. Once it smells nutty, take it off the heat and transfer to a heat-safe bowl to cool. (Technique courtesy of The Kitchn, www.thekitchn.com). That’s it! Now imagine pouring this hot, golden butter on top of butternut squash before you roast it. You can’t even imagine how incredible the kitchen will smell during that 45 minutes. When it comes out of the oven all tender, you’re more than half way to this creamy, divine soup. I ate it for lunch three days straight…some of my coworkers may have been jealous.


Prep time: 20 minutes — Cook time: 45 minutes to 1 hr — Total time: 1 hr 20 minutes

Soup Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/4 cup diced celery
  • 1/4 cup diced carrot
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • About 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups Roasted Winter Squash recipe (See ingredients below)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half, optional

Roasted Squash Ingredients:

  • About 3 pounds butternut squash (preferably 1 large squash)
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves (Substitute dried sage if you need to)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons Toasted Spice Rub (See ingredients below)

Toasted Spice Rub Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup (1-ounce) chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Okay: here we go! Don’t be alarmed by the lengthy ingredient list above. There are just a few extra steps in making this soup turn into liquid gold! First, we start by mixing the spices for the toasted spice rub. Toasting them releases their oils and makes them more fragrant. It also adds another layer of flavor.

Toast the fennel seeds, coriander seeds, and peppercorns a small pan over medium heat. When the fennel turns light brown, work quickly. Turn on the exhaust fan, add the red pepper flakes and toss, continually. Immediately turn the spice mixture out onto a plate to cool. Put mixture into a blender with the chili powder, salt, and cinnamon and blend until the spices are evenly ground. Pour into a bowl and toss with the remaining ingredients. Keep the spice mix in a glass jar in a cool, dry place, or freeze.3Next, we roast the squash. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the squash with a vegetable peeler. Halve lengthwise, discard the seeds, then cut into 1-inch dice. Place in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter stops foaming and has turned a light brown, pull the pan off the heat and immediately add the sage, sugar, vinegar (stand back so as not to get splattered), maple syrup and 2 teaspoons of the toasted spice rub. Mix well and let simmer over medium-low heat for 2 minutes to let the flavors meld.

Pour the vinegar mixture over the squash and toss well, then transfer to a heavy rimmed baking sheet large enough to hold the squash in a single layer. Place in the oven and roast, tossing at least once, until very tender and caramelized, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to handle but still warm, so the liquids are runny. Working in batches, if necessary, transfer the warm squash and all the cooking liquids to a food processor (I love my Nutri Bullet for this) and process until smooth. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Yields 2 cups puree.

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Next we go forth with soup! Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, celery, carrot, cinnamon stick and sauté until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for several minutes. Stir in the squash until smooth, then simmer gently to let the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick. (Make sure you discard… I almost forgot).

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. (The soup can be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for several days or frozen for about 1 month. It will thicken as it cools and may need thinning with stock or water when reheating.)

Return the soup to the pan and reheat gently. Add the half-and-half. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm until served. Garnish with roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Enjoy!

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All photo credit: Ashley Cuoco

Recipe adapted from Michael Chiarello, www.foodnetwork.com

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter

3 FINALE!Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

The first time I experienced gnocchi was in Milan. I was 21 years old and I will never forget it: soft, melt-in-your-mouth, savory, comforting to the max. It’s no surprise that the Italians know how to do comfort and hospitality. This restaurant was warm, intimate, and oddly familiar. It was like being at my in-law’s Sunday dinner table. The conversation, the wine and the seemingly endless plates strewn before me and the group. Ever since then, it’s been on my bucket list of things to make at home. I found this seasonal version from Bon Appetit Magazine: Butternut squash gnocchi with a sage brown butter. My jaw dropped! What better way to incorporate the flavors of the cooler months with a traditional homemade pasta. For those of you who enjoy the art of cooking, this recipe is for you. It was about a 3 hour experience that I thoroughly enjoyed. The roasted butternut squash… what a simply delicious gift from God all on its own. When you close your eyes and take a spoonful of this gnocchi, you’ll be instantly transported to that familiar place in your mind: whether it be grandma’s fragrant kitchen or a small trattoria in the heart of Milan.

Ingredients:

  • 1 butternut squash (1 lb)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 12- to 14-ounce russet potato, peeled, quartered
  • 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 3/4 cups (or more) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • Additional grated Parmesan cheese

Servings: 6 — Total Time: 3-4 hours

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut squash lengthwise in half; discard seeds. Place squash halves, cut side up, on baking sheet and brush with oil. Roast until squash is very tender when pierced with skewer and browned in spots, about 1 1/2 hours. Cool slightly. Scoop flesh from squash into processor; puree until smooth. Transfer to medium saucepan; stir constantly over medium heat until juices evaporate and puree thickens, about 5 minutes. Cool. Measure 1 cup (packed) squash puree. (*When I pureed my squash, it was already nice and thick. So I skipped the saucepan.)
  2. Meanwhile, cook potato in medium saucepan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain. While potato is warm, press through potato ricer* into medium bowl; cool completely. Measure 2 cups (loosely packed) riced potato.
  3. Mix squash, potato, 1/2 cup Parmesan, egg, nutmeg, and salt in large bowl. Gradually add 1 3/4 cups flour, kneading gently into mixture in bowl until dough holds together and is almost smooth. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls. Turn dough out onto floured surface; knead gently but briefly just until smooth. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces.
  4. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Sprinkle parchment lightly with flour. Working with 1 dough piece at a time, roll dough out on floured surface to about 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut rope crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, roll gnocchi along back of fork tines dipped in flour, making ridges on 1 side. Transfer gnocchi to baking sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour**. Can be made 6 hours ahead. Keep chilled.
  5. Working in 2 batches, cook gnocchi in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, 15 to 17 minutes (gnocchi will float to surface but may come to surface before being fully cooked). Using slotted spoon, transfer gnocchi to same parchment-lined baking sheets. Cool. Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover loosely and chill.
  6. Cook butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat just until golden, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sage; stir 1 minute. Add gnocchi; cook until heated through and coated with butter, 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Serve with additional Parmesan. Enjoy!

Notes: *I don’t have a potato ricer. I used the smallest side of my cheese grater and this worked perfectly.

**To save time, I chilled in the freezer for about 10 minutes while the pot of water was boiling.

Recipe adapted from Bon Apetit Magazine, www.bonappetit.com

1Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco

2Photo Credit: Ashley Cuoco