The days are getting shorter and the crisp mornings are a reminder of warm savory dishes ahead to nourish us this fall. Years ago it seemed like butternut and acorn were the options of the autumn squash world. Now we have delicatas, festival, and sugar dumplings – just to name a few.
I will preface my thoughts on this topic and say…..cutting squash should be respected! It can be tricky with some of the tougher-skinned varieties. I use a sharp, heavy knife for this job. I choose a knife for this task that I am comfortable handling with controlled pressure. If the squash shape you are working with is very roly-poly, sometimes you need to fold a damp cloth a few times and place the squash on top of the towel before you apply pressure and cut.
The dried stem on these squashes should be removed before you cut, as they can damage your blade. I recommend splitting the squash in half lengthwise.
2 – 2 ½ lbs winter squash (Butternut, Hokkaido, Delicata, Sugar Dumpling, or Acorn)
2 T olive oil, more if needed
1 large onion, roughly chopped
Pinch of thyme
Pinch of sage
2-4 cloves garlic
2-3 cups vegetable, chicken or bone broth
Sea salt and pepper to taste
*Optional: apple, celery, carrots, splash of heavy cream
Cut the whole unpeeled squash in half and drizzle the flesh with olive oil. Place it flesh-side down on a parchment paper-lined sheet pan. Bake the squash at 400°F for 45 min. to an hour, until your knife slides in easily. The squash should be soft enough for you to scoop it out with a spoon.
While your squash is in the oven, start sautéing onions in a heavy pot on medium low. Cook the onions on low for at least as long as you are roasting the squash. Once the onions start breaking down and caramelizing, feel free to add an apple, celery, carrots* or any flavors that you feel work together. When the squash is out of the oven and cool enough to handle, scoop it into the pot with the other simmering ingredients.
Add the broth and a splash of heavy cream (if using). Let this simmer on low for five or ten minutes for the flavors to combine.
At this point, you can gently mash the ingredients with a masher or whisk to create a rustic soup. Or, you can use an immersion blending wand or blender and process the ingredients until velvety smooth. If the soup is thicker than you prefer, add a splash of broth or water until you achieved your desired consistency.
For added flair, serve with raisins, pumpkin seeds, caramelized onions, mushrooms, dry goat cheese, curry powder, Cajun spice, salt, or even a drop of maple syrup.
Cheers to a happy, healthy season!
- Chef Olan Cox