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September 28, 2008 / Tony

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream and Fried Sage Leaves


This soup seems to be an ideal autumn lunch.  The creamy and comforting texture of the squash-flavored soup is highlighted (and deepened) with the addition of sage and thyme.  The cider cream adds a bit of lightness, some visual appeal, and just a good bit of Mmmmm.  It has a sweet/sour dynamic that’s absolutely charming.  And then the sage leaves bring some crunch along with some more of that earthy sage flavor.  The soup is just a tad sweet from the cider but decidedly sophisticated.  Here’s the recipe:

Butternut Squash Soup with Cider Cream and Fried Sage Leaves, adapted from the Bon Appétit Cookbook (2006)

5 T extra virgin olive oil

about 40 fresh sage leaves

2 1/2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 pieces (about 6 cups)

2 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)

1/2 cup chopped, peeled carrot

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped

1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp thinly sliced sage leaves

5 cups low-salt chicken broth (homemade, if you have it)

1 1/2 cups apple cider

2/3 cup sour cream

1/2 cup whipping cream

Prepare sage leaves:  Heat 4 T olive oil in a sauté pan till a whisper of smoke comes off the oil.  Add the sage leaves and fry until they become crisp, gently turning as necessary.  (Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to do this in 2 batches.)  Remove from the oil (reserve the oil for the soup), place on a paper towel lined plate, and season liberally with Kosher salt.  Set aside.

Prepare cider cream:  Bring 1/2 cup cider to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until it is reduced to 1/4 cup.  Place in a small bowl and let it cool completely.  Whisk in sour cream until fully incorporated.  Set aside in the refrigerator.

Prepare the soup:  Heat 1 T olive oil plus the reserved sage leave oil over medium high heat in a Dutch oven or a stock pot.  There should be about 4 T left.  If not, add some more olive oil.  Add the squash, leeks, carrots, and celery.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Saute for about 15 minutes or until slightly softened.  Add the apples, thyme, and sage.  Stir and then add the chicken broth and the remaining 1 cup cider.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low.  Cover and then simmer until apples are tender, stirring occassionally, about 30 minutes.  Using a stick blender, puree the soup until smooth.  Alternatively, puree soup in a blender or food processor, in batches, until smooth.  Return the soup to the pot.  Mix in the whipping cream.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve the soup:  Lade soup in to bowls.  Add a dollop of the cider cream and then sprinkle with the fried sage leaves.  Serve immediately. 

A few notes:  1)  Don’t get too worked up about getting your vegetables chopped precisely.  Everything is going to be pureed anyway, so a rough chop is all that is necessary.  2)  Dried sage can be substituted for the fresh.  Just use half of the amount.  Of course, without fresh sage, you can’t make the fried sage leaves either.  3)  Other garnishes?  Well, some lightly flavored croutons would be nice as would some chopped, toasted nuts.  4)  The soup and the cider cream can be made a day ahead.  Enjoy!

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