I'm not gonna lie. Working with large winter squash can be a real pain. When I worked in a restaurant kitchen, there was a beautiful roasted beet appetizer that I always made on my station. Many times a week, this dish required peeling the firm skin off a gigantic butternut squash, the unavoidable task of goopy seed-scooping, and finally, cutting the squash into perfect little uniform cubes before a quick roast in the oven. These are the tedious, time-consuming things they make chefs and line cooks do in fancy restaurants. At first, it was always a little bit of torture. But after a time, it felt more like an accomplishment than a burden.
For years in this column and on my blog, I've heavily touted my easy whole-roasting method for tackling big squash like spaghetti, butternut and pumpkin. It's a great kitchen hack for home cooks. It allows you to put the entire thing in the oven to get good and tender before ever trying to cut into it with a knife. No peeling required. The method works beautifully for a great many recipes. However, not today's recipe.
Today, I'm going to ask you to tackle a butternut squash. I'm going to encourage you to arm yourself with a good, heavy kitchen knife, freshly sharpened. If you don't have one, then walk away now, because I'd much rather you keep your fingers. I'm also going to ask you to grab a sturdy vegetable peeler. And, most importantly, I'm going to ask you to believe in yourself. You can do this. There's a pot of smoky, velvety soup waiting for you on the other side. In fact, take the day's stress and the cold weather with you into the kitchen. Peel off those frustrations. Scoop out the messiness of your week. Chop away at that squash to conquer whatever it is that weighs on you. I'm a firm believer that the process of making the food can be just as grounding and soothing as the eating of it.
Roasted butternut squash soup with bacon and goat cheese
1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 onion, large chop
1 red bell pepper, large chop
4 slices bacon
salt and pepper
3-4 cups chicken stock
For topping the soup:
4 slices bacon, crisp cooked and crumbled*
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
green onions or chives, sliced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet (you may need two) with foil. Place the squash, onion, bell pepper and bacon slices on the baking sheet(s) in a single layer. Season generously with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables in the oven for 25-30 minutes, stirring the pans halfway through cooking, until the squash is tender enough to puree.
*While the vegetables are roasting, cook the other four slices of bacon on the stovetop. Drain and crumble. Set aside.
To a Dutch oven, add the roasted vegetables and bacon. Pour in 2 cups of the chicken stock. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until mostly smooth (texture will be thick and slightly chunky), adding more chicken stock as needed. Turn the burner on to medium heat, and heat the soup through until it just begins to steam and simmer. Ladle the soup into bowls, then top with crumbled bacon, goat cheese and green onions or chives. Recipe adapted from Damn Delicious.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.