Caroline’s Soup

When I first came back from my visit to Atlanta to see Caroline, I mentioned that we had many tasty food reunion moments, including wonderful coffee and my splurge purchase of a Southern cooking bible.  Today we are finally going to wrap up that visit.  This blog has indeed suffered from my good luck in finding a job, as I’ve wriggled into my brother’s home  and tried to get used to an hour-long commute – all the while feeling rather chirpy that I’m getting paid a full-time wage again.  So let me apologize by offering up Caroline’s favorite soup.

squash soup-8

I had heard about this soup more than a month before I arrived, and it was totally worth the hype.  Caroline served it to her boyfriend’s parents for Thanksgiving, and  I just made it again yesterday for my sick brother and sister-in-law.  This soup is comforting and good for even picky eaters.  It has a base of squash, but it’s not at all boring.  With your favorite fatty pig product, tomatoes, and chicken broth, this soup develops surprising layers of flavor.  When someone says squash soup, I think ho hum.  But even my sister-in-law was surprised.  Her first reaction was yeah, it’s good…then the next flavor notes chimed in and she started paying more attention to her bowl.

A lot of these adaptations come from Caroline and her super smart palate.  Originally this recipe calls for pancetta.  In Atlanta (pictured), we used ham steaks because…well, why not?  I used bacon the other day because it was on sale.  All versions?  Amazing.  Play around with it.

squash soup-1

Ham steaks. A lot got snuck into mouths along the way.

This was originally meant to be boiled butternut.  Caroline uses acorn squash and roasts it with butter and maple syrup.  It adds another layer of flavor that isn’t really independent – it just deepens the squash flavor and rounds off the edges of the other, more acidic ingredients.  I used brown sugar because again… it was on sale.

So let’s have some soup.

Squash, Tomato, and Bacon Soup

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes 6 hearty servings

2 pounds squash of your choice – I prefer acorn

2 Tbsp butter

1 or 2 Tbsp brown sugar

Dash of cinnamon

5 oz bacon, coarsely chopped

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

2 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped fine

7 1/2 c chicken stock

2 c canned diced tomatoes, with all their juice

3/4 c cornmeal

squash soup-3

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Cut your squash open, scoop out the seeds, butter the insides and sprinkle the brown sugar inside (or maple syrup, depending on what you have on time).  Add a light sprinkle of cinnamon.  Roast for about 30 minutes, until it is just cooked through – think par-roasted.

squash soup-2

You can go ahead and roast your seeds while you’re at it… They are a wonderful topper for the finished soup.

squash soup-4
Meanwhile, chop up your onions and bacon. Toss both into a heavy bottomed pot with the red pepper flakes and cook over medium low until the onions are getting nice and soft.  This will ensure that the sharp onion flavor mellows out and builds more depth.  Stir from time to time.  This should take at least ten minutes.
squash soup-5
 Scoop all the squash out of its skin.  Add to the pot with the oregano and cook for a few minutes, until the oregano gets fragrant. Add the chicken stock and the tomatoes, then turn the heat up to bring the whole mess to a boil. Whisk in the cornmeal little by little (this will make it super thick and creamy).  Turn the heat back down to medium and simmer heat to medium and simmer until the squash is fall apart tender, about twenty minutes.
squash soup-6
If you have an immersion blender, use that the puree the soup. If you don’t, you can blend it very, very carefully in batches with a blender.  Season it to taste with salt and pepper, then serve to happy sighs.  Bon appétit, y’all.

squash soup-7

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Hey, I'm Desa. I've been bouncing between the Pacific Northwest and Sevilla, Spain in the last few years and from tiny apartment to tiny apartment. I cook mainly for one, which means some potentially boring meals, but here I'll be sharing the food that excites me. Feel free to offer suggestions, commiseration, or desires. And thanks for coming by!

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