Eight ingredients. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a weeknight feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.
In this New American cuisine-seasonal-locavore world we live in, butternut squash soup is, for many, a touchstone of winter. And why not? It’s colorful, warming and smells great on the stove.
It can, however, get really sweet in a hurry, pushing the dish into waters near dessert territory. The trick, I think, after playing around with a couple of versions, is to ratchet up points of contrast, instead of trying to tamp down the natural sweetness in the dish. Add fresh herbs for some brightness, for example, or salty cheese, like gruyère or Parmesan, for depth.
In this recipe, the squash is tempered by a bit of spice from cream spiked with ancho chiles (dried red poblano chiles). A spoonful of sour cream as a garnish adds another dimension.
Despite the heat from the chiles (and it’s a pretty mild heat we’re talking about—more birthday candle than bonfire), this dish is straight-up wine-friendly. The earthy edge to the squash builds a solid platform for pairing with rosés of every weight and color. A light crisp pick from the Southern Rhône did especially well. But what really stood out in our tasting was a white blend from the Rhône. (This one includes varieties such as Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier). Alongside the wine, the soup tasted better—more savory and complex—and the wine really perked up too, gaining in focus and precision.
Pair with a Rhône white, such as Cave de Cairanne Côtes du Rhône-Villages White Cairanne Les Salyens Camille Cayran 2009 (90 points, $19)
Total Time: 40 minutes
Approximate Food Cost: $16
1. In a medium skillet, toast the ancho chiles over high heat until they become aromatic and begin to smoke, around 30 seconds on each side. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan over high heat until almost boiling, then add the chiles, turn off the heat, cover and let the chiles rehydrate in the cream for 20 minutes.
2. In a large stockpot, heat one tablespoon of cooking oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until just soft, around 1 minute, and then add the garlic, cumin and cubed pieces of butternut squash and stir for one minute. Add the stock plus enough water to cover the squash and continue to cook until the liquid begins to boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the squash is soft, around 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Pour the ancho chile and cream mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the cream into a small bowl and reserve, pressing the solids with a spoon to extract the liquid. Discard the solids.
4. Pour the squash soup mixture into a clean blender and puree until smooth, then pour the pureed squash back into the stockpot, adding the strained chile-cream mixture. Heat the pureed soup over medium-high heat while stirring until it just boils. Ladle the soup into four bowls and top with a tablespoon of sour cream. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
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