You know what I don’t get? All the hooplah about Butternut squash.
As soon as fall rolls around, everyone everywhere (from cooking magazines to coworkers to mom) is raving about it, putting it in stews and chilis and soups and salads, talking about it like it’s the height of squash sophistication.
Enough already! I mean yeah, the long neck is ideal for getting evenly-sized perfect little cubes of squash, and it’s got an appealing name (butter nut… mmm) — but otherwise it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, is it?
Let’s face it: it’s always been one of the more difficult squashes to cut. Getting through that neck is treacherous, am I right? Seriously — everyone has a butternut squash horror story. Some even have the battle scars to prove it.
What’s worse, when you do finally succeed in hacking the little beast to pieces, it often yields up (what I find to be) flesh that is a) overly moist, b) usually kind of stringy and c) only somewhat sweet some of the time. Yes, after all that work you’re not even guaranteed a sweet reward.
So there you find yourself, standing over the stove, with sore biceps and bleeding digits, surrounded by buff-colored squash peels and band-aid wrappers, and all you have to show for it is some vaguely-sweet, fibrous orange glop.
Okay so maybe I’m exaggerating a wee bit.
You know there is a place in my heart for all squashes — after all, variety makes the world go ’round. (Or is it love? or money? I can’t remember.) But honestly, I don’t get what all the fuss is about. There’s a whole world of winter squash out there, and I don’t understand why this Butternut buster (and his partners in crime, the stringy Spaghetti and mild-mannered Acorn squashes) get so much media attention.
Really, why aren’t people craving and raving about all of those sweeter, drier-fleshed, finer-textured squashes out there? Why aren’t we hearing all about the Kabocha, the Buttercup, and the Blue Hubbard?
That last one there — the Blue Hubbard — this baby is my newest obsession. Its exterior is a humble (yet subtly compelling) shade of blue-gray, while the inside is a deep orange-yellow color with a greenish edge. When baked, it yields wonderfully creamy-textured flesh with a nutty sweet flavor.
Or, as Amy Goldman puts it, the Blue Hubbard is a “starchy, dry, thick, flaky, floury, melting, nutty and fine-textured winter squash…. with brilliant orange flesh”.
Now if that doesn’t win you over, I’m afraid there may not be much hope for you.
If, however, Amy and I have
converted convinced you (or even if we haven’t), I heartily recommend going out and buying not one, but two Blue Hubbards. Now.
The first one, you’ll want to use to make this soup… except you won’t be able to stop yourself from eating it straight out of the oven, and you’ll devour the whole thing, with your fingers, leaning over the stove. (Watch out, it’s hot.) Lucky for you, you’ve got that second squash… which, with a little due caution and some steeling of the willpower, you can now use to, ahem, make this soup.
Visually, it’s an appealing yellow-ochre color with barely discernable blue-gray flecks. The texture is velvety smooth, rich and creamy without actually being weighed down with real cream, and the spices are subtle to allow the sweet and (chest)nutty flavors of the Blue Hubbard to shine through: all in all, a perfect soup for a blustery late-autumn or mid-winter lunch.
Thanks, Amy, for your flattering words… and amen. I couldn’t agree more.
Blue Hubbard Bisque
- 1 small Blue Hubbard squash (roughly a heaping 1 1/2 cups baked)
- 1 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 cup light vegetable stock or water (or some combination) (I used stock left over from my previous soupventure)
- 2 medium yellow onions
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt (+ more to taste)
- heaping 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- scant 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- a dash or two ground cinnamon & cloves
- a cautious pinch of ground cumin
- five or six good twists of fresh cracked black pepper, grated fine (not coarse)
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
For the Sage Butter:
- 2 tbsp salted butter
- 6 sage leaves
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the outside of the squash, slice in half, scoop out seeds, and rub cut edges with a tablespoon of olive oil. Without peeling, rub onions with a touch of oil.
Set squash cut-side down in a roasting pan, nestle the whole onions in there somewhere (under the squash cavity, if they fit) and bake at 350 until soft, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Leaving the onions in their skins allows them to steam themselves under those layers, and keeps them moist.) When soft and sweet, remove from oven until cool enough to handle.
(Or alternatively if you’re using pre-baked squash, peel & dice the onions and sautee over low heat with a touch of oil or butter for about 20 minutes until soft and sweet.)
When you can touch the squash, pull off any burnt or browned pieces of the skin or any pieces with a rough warty exterior, as well as any remnants of the stem, and then smash the squash, skin and all, into a pot (if you’re using a hand blender) or cuisinart. Pull off the outer onion skin, cut off the tip and root end, dice (watch out, it’s hot) and toss it into the pot with the squash.
Add in about 3/4 cup of the milk and 3/4 cup of the water or stock, salt, spices, and maple syrup. Puree, adding more liquid as necessary until you reach the desired consistency.
Taste and adjust seasonings, keeping nutmeg and ginger as the primary spices. Transfer back to stovetop over medium-low heat until heated through, if serving immediately.
A few minutes before serving, heat the butter in a small pot over medium heat. Once melted, drop in the sage leaves (whole or coarsely chopped). Let sit until the butter is bubbling and just starting to brown — it should smell nutty — and the sage is crispy (roughly 3-4 minutes), then remove from heat.
Ladle soup into bowls and serve with a few drops of the browned butter (and crunchy fried sage leaves) spooned over the surface.