Dean Fearing loves the holiday feel of butternut squash, especially when it's combined with ginger, as it is for his smooth, gently sweet soup. He tops it with whipped cream flecked with chopped pecans for a number of reasons: "Usually holiday soups have a dollop of cream—adding pecans gives it a dollop of flavor. And crunch. I think everything should have a little bit of crunch to it. Plus, this is Texas, and pecans are Texas."
Chef Holiday Recipes Made EasyMore Squash Dishes
2 large butternut squash (5 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup pecans (2 ounces)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 small fennel bulb—halved, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
One 1 1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 cups chicken stock
One 14-ounce can of unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 cup chilled heavy cream
1 teaspoon hazelnut oil
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
How to Make It
Preheat the oven to 350°. Rub the cut sides of the squash with the olive oil and set them, cut side down, on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake the squash for about 1 hour, or until very tender. Remove from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle. Spoon the squash flesh into a large bowl; discard the skins.
In a pie plate, toast the pecans for about 8 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant; let the nuts cool.
In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the onion, fennel and ginger and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the squash and the chicken stock, cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover the pot and continue cooking until the squash starts to fall apart, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut milk.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the pecans until they are finely chopped. In a medium bowl, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the chopped pecans, hazelnut oil and cayenne pepper and season with salt.
Working in batches, puree the squash soup in a blender until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt. Ladle the soup into bowls, top with a dollop of the pecan cream and serve.
The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat gently, adding a little chicken stock to thin the soup.
A fruity, aromatic Viognier will have enough body to stand up to this rich soup. Try one from Texas or Napa Valley.
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