Butternut Squash Soup with Brown Butter, Sage and Nutmeg Crà¨me Fraà®che

butternut squash soup_photo credit Deborah Jones
Butternut Squash Soup with Brown Butter, Sage and Nutmeg Crème Fraîche
(Soupe de courge au beurre noisette et à la crème fraîche muscadée)

Excerpted from BOUCHON by THOMAS KELLER (Artisan Books). Copyright 2004.

Butternut squash, brown butter, and sage are a classic combination in various cuisines, whether as soup, sauce, or pasta. This recipe combines roasted squash with sautéed squash, onions, and carrots, then is finished in vegetable stock and pureed for a soup that’s a little thicker and more substantial than a cream soup. We like to make this a day ahead because the butternut squash gets sweeter if it rests. When serving, be careful not to burn the butter—as soon as it hits an aromatic hazelnut brown, add it to the soup, which will stop the butter’s cooking as it seasons the soup.

Serves: 6

Ingredients:
One 3- to 31/2-pound butternut squash
2 tablespoons canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sage sprigs
1 cup thinly sliced (1/8 inch thick) leeks, white and light green parts only
1/2 cup thinly sliced (1/8 inch thick) carrots
1/2 cup thinly sliced (1/8 inch thick) shallots
1/2 cup thinly sliced (1/8 inch thick) onions
6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 tablespoons honey
6 cups Vegetable Stock, plus extra if necessary
Bouquet Garni
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 cup crème fraîche
Freshly grated nutmeg
Canola oil (if using sage leaves)
8 sage leaves or 1 tablespoon minced chives
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Preparation:

For the soup:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut the neck off the squash and set it aside. Cut the bulb in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Brush each half inside and out with about 11/2 teaspoons of the canola oil. Sprinkle the cavities with salt and pepper and tuck a sprig of sage into each. Place cut side down on the baking sheet and roast for about 1 hour, or until completely tender.
  3. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle, then scoop out and reserve the flesh (discard the sage).
  4. Meanwhile, using a paring knife or sharp vegetable peeler, peel away the skin from the neck of the squash until you reach the bright orange flesh. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces (these will be pureed, so don’t be concerned if the pieces are irregularly shaped). (You should have approximately 4 cups diced squash.)
  5. Put the remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat, add the leeks, carrots, shallots, and onions, and cook, stirring often, for about 6 minutes. Add the diced squash, garlic, 11/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook gently for 3 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to keep the garlic and squash from coloring. Stir in the honey and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and bouquet garni, bring to a simmer, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
  6. Add the roasted squash and simmer gently for about 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Remove from the heat and discard the bouquet garni.
  7. Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches, and puree. Strain the soup through a fine strainer into a bowl or other container, tapping the side of the strainer so the soup passes through. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. Let the soup cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

To complete:

  1. Place the crème fraîche in a chilled small metal bowl and stir in nutmeg to taste. Whisk with a small whisk until the crème fraiche holds a shape. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. Reheat the soup. If it is too thick, add a little more vegetable stock.
  3. Heat a medium skillet over high heat. When it is very hot, add the butter and rotate the skillet over the heat as necessary to brown the butter evenly, scraping up any bits that settle in the bottom. As soon as the foaming has subsided and the butter is a hazelnut brown, pour it into the pot of soup. (Be careful not to leave the butter over the heat too long, as it can change from rich brown to black in seconds.)
  4. Meanwhile, if using the sage leaves, heat 1/8 inch of canola oil in a small skillet. When the oil is very hot, add the sage and cook for 30 to 45 seconds, turning the leaves to crisp them on both sides. When the bubbling stops, the moisture in the leaves will have evaporated and the leaves will be crisp. Drain the sage on paper towels and sprinkle with salt.
  5. Ladle the soup into four serving bowls. Top each with a dollop of crème fraîche. Grind some black pepper over the top and garnish each with 2 sage leaves or some minced chives. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.