Saturday, September 21, 2013

Build me up, buttercup.

My friend June made a lovely autumnal butternut squash soup last weekend , and when I spied a especially big and gorgeous buttercup squash at my local farmer's market, I thought I might make my own the crock pot, of course! What could be more heart-and-soul-warming than this? WELCOME FALL!

Buttercup Squash Soup
1/2 pound bacon, chopped (I used smoky end pieces)
2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 large buttercup squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (or the winter squash of your choosing)
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon chicken soup base
1 large bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick (break in half)
big pinch of peppercorns
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 star anise
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 cup cream, optional
salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat until brown and crispy. Strain out the bacon bits and set aside. In the bacon fat, sauté onions, shallots, and garlic until tender. Deglaze the pan with white wine, and cook until the liquid is mostly absorbed by the veggies.

In the meantime, add the chunks of squash to the crock pot and cover with a quart of stock. Stir in the chicken soup base. To a tea ball/strainer, add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and star anise. Throw the tea ball of spices into the pot along with the sautéed veggie mixture.

Cook on high for about three hours or low for six. Remove the spice ball and purée the soup with an immersion blender. Add the ground cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and cream (if using). Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with a sprinkling of the reserved bacon bits on top!

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