Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving Soup Bar: Red Curry Butternut Squash Soup

The Thanksgiving Soup Bar idea started with the idea of doing a pumpkin soup, but I decided to do a butternut squash soup instead. I liked the idea of warming the soup flavors with curry. I could make a basic soup without a recipe, and I'd added curry powder to soups before. I flipped through cookbooks and web sites, though, to see if I could find a specific recipe. Curry and winter squash is a popular combination, and there were a lot of recipes to sift through. I settled on this one from Williams Sonoma. It appealed to me because it went beyond just adding yellow curry powder to a standard soup, but other than the squash, the ingredients were things I already had in the refrigerator and pantry.

I tweaked the recipe a bit, adding lemongrass to the already Thai-style flavor profile. Fresh lemongrass and ginger are wonderful, and I often have a knob of ginger on hand, but didn't last week. I keep tubes of Garden Gourmet pastes on hand as well, though, and using them here saved me a shopping trip. Because I was traveling for the holiday, I made the majority of the soup ahead. After the squash was cooked, I cooled the mixture and transferred it to a zipper bag for transport in an ice chest. Just before serving I pureed the squash mixture, added the remaining ingredients, and turned it over to my sister to man the strainer while I prepped the other soups. You can skip the straining step if you like - the little bit of remaining texture can give the soup a nice heft.

The soup was a little thin after straining; if I'd had more time I would have simmered it a bit to reduce as I prefer a little thicker soup. It was fine as it was, though. I could also see adding more coconut milk or even cream or half and half to make it a truly creamy soup; the amount of coconut milk here is enough to give it a little lightness, but not enough to make it creamy.

Next time I make this I'll add more than the designated 1 tsp of curry paste. I could barely tell

it was there. I did add another 1/2 tsp or so as I was making it, but I think it could handle 2 tsp or even more. If you want a definite curry flavor with more heat, add more, 1/2 tsp at a time, until the flavor intensity pleases you.

Red Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Adapted from Williams Sonoma

1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup sliced shallots
1/4 tsp table salt
1 Tbsp ginger paste or grated fresh ginger
I Tbsp lemongrass paste or minced fresh lemongrass (white part only)
1 tsp garlic paste, or 1 large garlic clove, pressed
9 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash (about 3 lb.)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp Thai red curry paste, or more to taste
3/4 cup light coconut milk
Juice and zest from 1/2 a fresh lime

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallots and salt and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the ginger, lemongrass, and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute more. Add the squash and broth. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover, and cook until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.

In a blender or food processor, puree the soup, in batches if necessary, until smooth. Return the soup to the pot. (Alternately, use a hand blender to puree the soup in the pot.) Combine the curry paste and coconut milk in a measuring cup or small bowl until well blended. Add the coconut milk mixture and the lime juice and zest to the squash mixture. Gently heat the finished soup before serving. If desired, push the soup through a mesh strainer before heating. Taste and add more salt if needed.

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