In Season - November 2009

By Judi Gallagher November 1, 2009

Butternut squash is similar to pumpkin in its nutty taste and sweetness. Available year-round, it’s in full season from September through the winter. When completely ripe, it becomes richer and sweeter in color. Look for an orange skin, which means the pulp will be bright orange and less watery.

Butternut squash is rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A. The calories come in when we add brown sugar and butter—a staple for classic winter squash preparations.

I prefer to use butternut squash in soups and risottos and often make this simple bisque when the temperature in Sarasota gets below 75 degrees.

Butternut Bisque with Crispy Bacon

1 large butternut squash (about 2 pounds)

1 pound medium leeks

8 slices thick-cut bacon

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

3 cups chicken stock or broth

Splash light cream

Cut the squash in half across its width. Cut these pieces in half lengthwise. Place the squash, cut sides down, on a rimmed baking sheet and pour ½ cup water over the squash. Roast for 50 minutes, moving the pieces around with a spatula after 30 minutes so they don’t stick. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside.

Cut the bacon into ½-inch pieces and add to a 4-quart pot. Cook over high heat, stirring constantly to release some of the fat, for about 1 minute. Add the chopped leeks to the pot with the bacon; reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until the leeks are well-softened and beginning to color, about 10 minutes.

Scoop the squash out of the flesh from the squash shells and add it to the pot with the leeks. Add 3 cups chicken stock and ½ teaspoon salt to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes. In two batches, transfer the soup to a blender.

Process until very smooth and velvety. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Return the soup to the pot and reheat gently before serving. Add cream. Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium heat, cook the remaining 2 slices of bacon until crisp. Drain and discard the fat. Pat the bacon dry with paper towels, coarsely crumble and scatter on the soup. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

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