Sweet, Spiced Fat
Dinner guests expel creepy, intimate sounding moans—they whimper when they taste this soup. It’s gross, but I don’t blame them and it shouldn’t dissuade you from quickly following this recipe. This is the all time, number one recipe I am asked to write up. I make it for holidays and special occasions. This is a rich, soup whose simple appearance belies a dish with multiple layers of flavor. It’s easy to make, but there are a few tricks to making this soup Bananas Yummy:
Be selective and patient with the onions.
Be generous with the fat, sugars, and salt.
Season with deep, spicy spices.
I don’t care what you name it, a lot of you are about to have an Autumn Celebration—A Feast. You might call it Takesgiving, Whitesgetting, or Trashgrunting (which includes post-gorging football viewing—not playing). This soup will knock your special fall meal outta the park.
I’ve been putting this off for years. Writing this recipe has felt like a chore, mainly because I typically make a batch big enough to feed an army of Russian Facebook ad writers. Reducing the proportions to a household amount reminds me of Betsy Devos—it feels like a stupid waste of time.
This soup is so good. It deserves to be made in quantity and frozen. Having this stuff in the freezer is like money in the bank—an investment in your mental health. Come January, when it’s dark by 4pm and cold as penguin knuckles, you will have highly delicious soup stashed in your own house. Also, Betsy Devos should be frozen. Frozen like Disney, so that in the future, we can study her pinto-bean sized brain. How else are we going to isolate and destroy the viruses that seem to have caused mass brain sepsis among Americans.
Cautionary note about making this soup. Carefully follow the directions regarding squash prep. There is nothing more dangerous, no terrorist, poison-engorged viper, or armed white guy can hold a flame to the perils of peeling an un-cooked winter squash.
Severed digits, mangled thumbs, punctured lungs—it’s time we stand up to the tyrannical Winter Produce Lobby and speak truth to power.
Typical politicians, throwing up smoke screens about gun safety and universal health care—ignoring the actual problem: Autumn Butternut Massacres. Our citizens are literally bleeding to death, in galley kitchens, open concept kitchens, and in the hallway near the kitchen where the extra paper towels are kept. It’s time we take on Big Squash!
Citizen: I want to see some laws right now! Laws to protect my family from hard vegetables. Both my parents were killed on separate Thanksgivings, while preparing—ATTEMPTING TO PREPARE—delicious squash dishes. Before (God forbid) my wife or cousins are taken from me this Thanksgiving—pass some strict Kabocha Safety Laws!
Politician: Listen, nobody wants Squash-Control Laws more than me. I lost both my kids last weekend at an Acorn Squash themed birthday party. I hear you.
Citizen: You will never understand my pain. You are a wax mannequin. Your “children” were scarecrow decorations from that pop-up store, Halloween Towne.
Politician: I am not a mannequin and I can prove it: Pinch my arm—and those little straw kids meant everything to me.
Citizen: All you politicians do all day is write up regulations making it more and more difficult for me to use my home rooftop-mounted-600-round-fully-automatic-death-cannon. How ’bout you cowards address the actual dangers in this country—HARD-TO-PREP VEGETABLES!
Want to know the secret to slicing and peeling winter squash? Use a spoon. Yeah, we’re not cutting it. That’s not what we do anymore.
Put the whole thing in the oven. I get home from work on a chilly day and turn my oven up to 375. I place a raw, un-fiddled-with winter squash on ANY ovenproof surface: garbage-can lid, wrinkly clump of foil caked with lasagna residue, or baking sheet—no oil. Bake that sucker for a couple of hours. Roasting like this caramelizes the plentiful sugars in winter squash, deepening the flavor of your soup.
Once cool, the squash is as easy to peel, clean and prep as it is for me to sleep through the tinkling “meditation chimes” of my “alarm” clock—the thing should be called a lullaby machine.
The recipe, as written, is how I make this soup for a special occasion. Follow it and you will have a culinary treat. It is so rich, I usually serve it in small bowls as an appetizer. People ALWAYS ask for more.
Best Thanksgiving Soup
- 1 medium to large Butternut or Kabocha squash (7-10 pounds)
- 2 medium-red/orange skinned sweet potatoes
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 pint heavy whipping cream
- 1 (1/2) sticks butter (3/4 pound)
- DAIRY FREE OPTION-3 cans whole fat coconut milk
- 2 medium sized yellow onions
- 1 shallot
- Approx 1 quart prepared chicken broth.
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey
- Strip of bacon or tablespoon chopped pancetta--Optional
- 1-2 teaspoons red chili paste (Thai Kitchen makes a nice one)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh grated is great.)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4-1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey
- Salt to taste. Don't be shy. Start with 1 teaspoon.
- BACON TOASTED NUT TOPPING
- 1 cup each: raw sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds.
- 1/2 cup sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons tamari
- 1/2 pound crisp bacon chopped
The night before, or several hours before making soup:
Preheat oven to 375. Place squash in a baking pan over parchment o a little oil if you like. I bake it without oil or parchment. Later, I soak the pan to wash all the squash crust away. Bake for an hour or two, until squash is SQUASHY soft.
Chop sweet potatoes into thirds. Boil 20-35 minutes to completely soften. Drain, cool and remove skins. You should have about 2 cups soft sweet potato.
Chop onions and shallots into approximately 1 x 1 inch pieces.
Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot over medium/high heat. Get it hot--almost smoking.
Add onions to hot oil. Stir for 1-2 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons butter. Reduce heat to medium. Stir intermittently for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low.
OPTIONAL: Add a strip of raw bacon, chopped or some pancetta to brown with the onions.
Stir and turn onions every 3-5 minutes for 20-40 minutes. It takes this long to reach true caramelization . . .
OR speed-brown them in about 8 minutes on high heat, stirring very frequently--do not leave them for a second.
Peel away outer skin, remove seeds and scoop squash to measure 5 cups or so.
Combine cooked squash, sweet potato and onion mix in a blender or food processor. This may take two loads. Blend until very creamy.
Return to heavy bottomed soup pot and add 1 quart prepared chicken broth. You can make this broth by dissolving 2-3 cubes bouillon or 2-3 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon mix to 1 qt. water.
Add 1 quart milk and 1 pint heavy whipping cream. Soup should be simmering on medium low. Higher heat will scald the milk.
Sprinkle and whisk in the cloves, nutmeg and chili paste.
Add remaining butter, 1 cube plus a little more. Just do it. Trust me.
Add the 2 tablespoons of tamari, plus a little salt. Whisk it in while the butter is melting. Once butter has melted:
Add sweetener, a teaspoon to start. Taste. The squash and sweet potato vary greatly in sweetness. It could be that very little sweetener is needed. Maple syrup is my favorite for this soup.
The consistency of this soup should be thick, but not pasty. We are avoiding a baby food experience. Try for the consistency of pourable yogurt or kefir. Add additional whole milk to thin the soup if it's too squashy.
Adjust spices to your taste.
TOASTED BACON NUTS:
Preheat oven to 325
Toss seeds, almonds and tamari together in bowl.
Spread mix on parchment covered baking pan.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until toasty.
Cook bacon until crisp. Drain and chop.
Combine chopped bacon and seed/nut mix.
Top each serving of soup with a teaspoon of Bacon Nuts
Yuckier (but still very good) Vegan version of this recipe: Remove all the best things and replace with non-meat or dairy substitutes. Replace chicken broth with veggie stock/broth. Replace cow butter with a vegan butter, like Miyokos Cultured Vegan Butter. Replace cream and milk with 3 cans of whole fat coconut milk. Let the thick coconut cream rise by refrigerating the cans for an hour plus. Best to just store your cans of coconut milk in the fridge. Do not include the gray liquid at the bottom of the can. Use that to wash your surfboard.