I am truly thankful for our neighbors. We live in the kind of neighborhood where we entrust each other with house keys, pets and children. We have the kind of neighbors you can ask for that extra egg or cup of flour for a recipe, or get unsolicited help unloading a truck full of dirt, and of course share a meal and a beer.
Joining our neighbors and a few other friends for a winter night feast was a great way to celebrate friendship and abundance. My offering to this motley crew was squash soup. I gleaned the recipe for this first course from the pages of Fields of Greens, by Annie Somerville (which, by the way, was a birthday gift from my neighbors). I have made squash soup plenty of times, but the addition of Brandy, crème fraiche and apples made this soup stand out. The recipe calls for Calvados, but I didn’t have any. Next time, I’ll borrow some from my neighbors.
Butternut Squash Soup with Apple Confit
Light Vegetable Stock (Recipe below)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
five-pepper mix or white pepper
3 tbsp Calvados
4 lbs butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (about 6 cups)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 McIntosh or other flavorful apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 crème fraiche
1. Make stock and keep warm. You could substitute vegetable broth, or store-bought stock, but I don’t recommend it. The lightness and beautiful flavor is irreplaceable.
2. Heat olive oil in sauce pan and add onions, 1/2 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper. Sautee over medium heat until the onions begin to caramelize, about 15 minutes, adding a little stock if they begin to stick.
3. Add 2 tbsp Calvados and cook 1 or 2 minutes, until almost dry.
4. Add squash and 1 tsp salt to the onions. Add just enough stock to cover the squash. Simmer over medium heat for about 30 minutes.
5. Puree soup in a blender or food processor. Add a bit more stock if too thick.
6. While the soup is cooking, make apple confit. Melt butter in a saucepan, and add apples.
7. When they are heated through, add Calvados and cook for 1 or 2 minutes. Add apple juice and cover and cook for 15 minutes, until soft. Then cook uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes
to reduce liquid. Mash the apples, leaving confit chunky.
8. Stir half of the confit into soup. Season soup with salt and pepper.
9. Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with some confit and a swirl of crème fraiche.
Light Vegetable Stock
1 yellow onion thinly sliced
1 leek top
4 garlic cloves, in skin
1 tsp salt
2 medium carrots chopped
1 large potato
1/4 pound mushrooms
2 celery ribs
6 parsley sprigs
3 sage leaves
6 thyme sprigs
2 marjoram sprigs
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp peppercorns
Pour just enough water into stockpot to get onions cooking. Add onions, leeks and garlic and cook for 15 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and cover with 9 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Strain stock.