Monday, January 26, 2015

Bourbon-Kabocha Squash Soup with Candied Nuts and Blue Cheese

This is the perfect meal to make on a cold winter afternoon.  While each of the steps is pretty easy, they're spread out over a few hours and so you'll be happier if you're not trying to rush dinner to the table.  Those hours will be rewarded with a warm bowl of total comfort food.  Squash, onions, and garlic are roasted to get a fantastic caramelized flavor, and then simmered and pureed until silky smooth.  A splash of bourbon adds that je ne sais quoi element that keeps the soup from being overly sweet.  

This is one of those soups where the toppings are non-optional, although you could certainly play around with them.  But, I would argue the soup definitely needs a salty element to balance the sweetness of the squash and onions, as well as a crunchy element to keep the texture from feeling like baby food.  Here, the salty element is blue cheese, which adds a little bit of funky flavor and keeps things interesting. If you're not a fan, goat cheese or feta -- anything soft and salty -- would go well.  For crunch, I candied some pecans and walnuts that were hanging out in my freezer, and spiced them up with a little Aleppo chile.  I am kind of obsessed with Aleppo chile flakes, because they have great flavor in addition to being spicy.  Of course, red pepper flakes or even a pinch of cayenne would work here as well.  The nut mixture makes more than you need, but ir's also great on salads or just for snacking.

A salad or some homemade bread will make this soup a complete meal.  I made a batch of my favorite Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, using half whole wheat flour and adding a bit of olive oil for tenderness. Any of their recipes are great to pair with this soup, since the timing is similar (i.e. lots of little steps spread out over a few hours).  We're gearing up for a big blizzard in Boston, so I'm glad to have my fridge stocked with leftovers!

Bourbon-Kabocha Squash Soup with Candied Nuts and Blue Cheese (loosely adapted from Food52)
Serves 4

1 medium Kabocha squash, quartered and seeded (or sub in any winter squash you like)
1 red onion, peeled and quartered
3-4 cloves garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper
Chicken stock, as needed (I used about 6 cups)
2 T butter
A generous glug of bourbon (to taste)
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup lightly toasted chopped nuts (I used a mix of walnuts and pecans, but whatever you have on had will be great)
Generous pinch Aleppo chile flakes
Crumbled blue cheese, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with oil.
2. Arrange the squash quarters skin-side-down.  Place a garlic clove on each piece of squash, and arrange the onions around them.  Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 45 minutes, until the squash is just tender and the onions and soft.
3. Let everything cool for a bit, then peel the squash, cut into chunks, and place in a large soup pot.  Add the onions, and squeeze the garlic out of its skins into the pot.  Add enough chicken stock to cover the veggies.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer for another 30-40 minutes, until the squash is completely tender.
4. Puree everything until very smooth (I used a stick blender, but a regular blender or a food processor would work as well -- just be very careful blending the hot liquid!).  Add the butter, along with a generous pinch of salt, and stir to melt the butter.
5. Add a generous pour of bourbon (to taste), and let simmer for another 30 minutes or so.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Depending on how thick you like your soup, you can add additional chicken stock or simmer the soup a bit longer.
6. Meanwhile, prepare the candied nuts.  Melt the sugar in a skillet and let caramelize, without stirring -- swirl the pan as needed to prevent the sugar from burning.  When the sugar is melted and golden, add the nuts and chile flakes, and stir to combine.  Tip out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and arrange in a single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and let cool.  When cool, chop into small chunks.
7. Serve the soup topped with the walnuts and crumbled blue cheese.

Note: This soup would be very easy to make vegetarian -- just replace the chicken stock with veggie stock.  For a vegan version, skip the blue cheese and add an extra sprinkle of sea salt on top.


  1. Ooh, bleu cheese...yum!

  2. I am obsessed with soup right now! This looks amazing!

  3. This sounds so yummy! I LOVE the candied nuts and blue cheese on top-- such a great flavor combo!

  4. Sara - ever since I discovered kabocha and started roasting it just a couple of months ago, it is on constant rotation. I love it so much!! Needless to say, I would wipe out this whole batch of soup for you myself easy!

  5. Hello PERFECT SOUP. This is exactly what I'm craving lately!