Friday, October 18, 2013

Potato Cheddar Soup with Roasted Butternut Squash

September always brings a sense of excitement. My kitchen is rejuvenated, from the quiet cobwebs of summer, the cooking engine sparks up as the temperature ticks down. Facebook is alight with #PumpkinSpice and all of the sudden my guy's appetite comes out of hiding from the 100 degree++ temperatures here in Vegas.
We always tease that we are a bit like hunter/gatherers in our house, in an opposite kind of way. The heat just doesn't give way to much of a want to eat, nothing ever sounds appealing and heating up the house, which we are so desperately trying to keep under 70 degrees (we like to freeze in the summer) with the stove and oven seems like a crime. So, Fall dances in, the windows fly open at night, and the house is enveloped by a wonderful smell that tells the world that our appetites are out of slumber. The house is filled with delicious smells that waft from my kitchen (unless I burn something) from recipes I've been dreaming up all summer. Some hit, some miss...the following recipe was a HIT!
Potato Cheddar Soup with Roasted Butternut Squash

Sweet roasted squash against the slight hint of salty bacon, all mixed in with hearty potatoes, makes this one recipe that is perfect, as the temperatures just start to drop. The promise of Fall is even more exciting.


This soup is made in separate parts and blended together. Taking the extra steps to strain the soup base creates a silky smooth mouth feel...so they say .... But in all seriousness, adding the cheese as a b├ęchamel base ensures your cheese will blend without clumping at the bottom and burning, or clinging to the vegetables, creating clumps in the soup. Instead, we get a creamy, smooth, delicious soup. I would liken it to a liquid baked potato, but the butternut squash adds a little something extra and also increases the nutritional value, yet your unsuspecting hubby or kids will just think it's just awesome!


Soup Ingredients:

Mirepoix


Soup Base:
4-5 Russet potatoes, rinsed and peeled
1/2 Yellow Onion
1/2 of one Butternut squash, diced and roasted
2 carrots, peeled and loosely chopped
2 celery sticks, loosely chopped
2 cups Chicken Stock (Replace with Vegetable Stock for vegetarian option)
2 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil

Soup Stuff:
7 Red Potatoes, peeled and diced, see #3 for dice instructions
2 sticks of heart of celery - the leafy inner part that is full of flavor
1/2 cup Green Onion, nicely sliced
2-3 cups of water

Soup thickener:
1 tbsp Butter
2 tbsp bacon grease (replace with 2 tbsp butter for vegetarian preparation)
2 1/2 tbsp Flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp pepper
2 cup Milk (This recipe can stand up to skim milk through whole milk, so it's your preference; I used Costco's Organic 2%)
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup White American Cheese

Soup Toppings:
leave on the side for guests to top their own bowl)
Crumbled Bacon
Sliced "greens" from the tops of the green onion
Sour Cream

Handy Cookware:
Stock Pot
Various sizes of pots/pans are helpful
Bowl
Food Mill

SOUP BASE:

Before you start chopping, peeling etc...get the Butternut Squash roasting, see below-

1. Heat your oven to 375 degrees. *Peel the squash and discard the tough outer peelings. Cut in a large dice, doesn't need to be pretty, they end up blended in the soup later. In a shallow baking dish, toss squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Squash will be ready to add to the soup in 20-25 minutes, so start your dice on remaining ingredients in the meantime.

Steps by Step in Prepping the Butternut Squash
*Kitchen Tip - I use my chef's knife to peel just between the firm peachy-orange flesh and the hard, lighter peach outer peel instead of a traditional vegetable peeler. It is a time saver and the more you do it, the faster you will get! Be mindful of your fingers in the process.

2. Peel and chop the yellow onion, the carrots, and celery. Heat the 2 tbsp olive oil to medium high heat in stock pot and add your veggie ingredients, turn heat down to low heat and allow the veggies to sweat but not caramelize. While the vegetables get to work, clean, peel and large dice the russet potatoes, again a rough chop is fine. Add chopped russet potatoes, 2 cups of stock and 2 cups of water in a stockpot and give your "soup base" ingredients a quick stir. Cover and allow to steam for 20 minutes or until the potatoes have softened.

3. While that simmers, rinse and peel your red potatoes, clean green onions, rinse celery hearts (leafy tops included.) Dice the red potatoes, this time chopping evenly. I usually use between a small and medium dice; try to make them uniform and square as possible, for aesthetics. The red potato has a firmer, less mealy flesh than the red potato, so they give the soup nice heartiness when left whole. Slice green onions, and chop the celery hearts and leaves. Set this aside these ingredients, you will use them quickly.




Food Mill- Before

Food Mill - Discard the solids that are leftover
4. Remember to take the butternut squash out of the oven at their 20-25 minute mark. They need to be roasted and soft enough to put through the food mill, but not over roasted or burnt. If they are done before your soup base, just set aside until ready. Once your soup base has had a good 20 minutes of simmering, throw your roasted squash into the party. Turn off oven and stove heat and let you soup base cool, about 5-10 minutes while you set-up your *food mill. My food mill rests on the top of a soup pot for stability, which works out great for me. Add soup base to the food mill in batches as you strain it through and allow the smooth product to collect in a soup pot. Discard the solids from food mill.


*Kitchen Tip: If you don't have a food mill, you can achieve a similar goal with a blender, a fine mesh strainer and spatula. You will first puree the soup base in blender, then manually push through the strainer into soup pot.

5. I add between 2-3 cups of water to the soup base at this point, depending on the thickness achieved during simmering. Add less water first, so as not to render the base too thin. Add your red potatoes, celery hearts, and green onions now and bring the pot up to a light simmer. Simmer until red potatoes are fork tender.

6. If you don't have *crumbled bacon on hand, throw a pan on low heat and add bacon. Set some paper towels aside for draining the bacon after it is crispy. I usually drain the fat from the pan, so the bacon fries on the dry heat, rather than sitting in its grease. Save 2 tbsp of the grease for soup.

*Kitchen Tip: For crumbled bacon, use scissors to cut the long bacon strips in half to thirds, while raw, to make turning and crumbling easier later.

*SOUP THICKENER aka Bechamel5. In a separate pot, this can be a medium pot, put on medium high heat. Add the 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp rendered bacon fat and bring to a simmer without letting the butter go brown. Watch it because the butter goes bad quickly.

7. Add spices of nutmeg, salt and pepper.

8. Add flour to start a roux, whisk into simmer fat, the flour will thin out and ball up. That is okay, turn your heat down and let the flour cook for a few minutes. Whisk every so often. You want to cook the flour taste out without burning.




9. Add milk and bring to a simmer, allow the milk to thicken from the flour, but do not aggressively boil. Once your sauce has thickened a bit, you can whisk in your cheeses. I've found doing it in batches, whisking between adding, renders the smoothest consistency.

*Kitchen Tip - Something else awesome about this soup is you've just basically learned how to make a cheese sauce for homemade Mac N Cheese! Double bonus. Measurements will vary a bit.

10. Once your potatoes are fork tender, pour this bechamel cheese sauce right into the soup, stirring along the way. Keep the heat up on the soup until the cheese sauce melds into the soup.

Allow the soup to cool a bit and it is ready for serving. Set it out with optional toppings of crumbled bacon, green onion, and/or sour cream. Check out the pictures. This recipe makes a large batch, enough for entertaining, freezing for later or sending home with family and friends, they won't complain!

Until next time...Happy Cooking!

XoXo

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