Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the cold crisp morning air, wearing heavy sweaters and boots and the smell of autumn leaves and damp soil in the sunlight. Fall also gets me in the soup cooking mood. Like any other time of year, there are certain foods that just are right for the season. While I was surfing around on my iPad a couple of days ago, I saw a recipe for Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry that looked interesting. I went to the grocery store and bought all the ingredients, but for some reason I held off on making the soup for a few days. In the back of my mind, I felt like the recipe was missing something and I needed to figure that out before I launched off to make my pot of soup.
After doing some research of other Butternut Squash Soup recipes, I finally decided what I needed to add to this recipe to give it a more earthy, less “pumpkin pieish” flavor. There are a couple of ingredients in my soup recipe that should not be skipped, otherwise it will not have that “walked in the woods” feel to your meal. First, don’t skip the Sherry – Sherry adds a depth of flavor to the soup. I personally like to drink Sherry, so I always have a very good bottle on hand. If you don’t have Sherry at home, many liquor stores sell very small bottles of good Sherry that will be perfectly fine for your soup. Second, don’t substitute sour cream for the creme fraiche. Creme fraiche has such a unique texture and distinct taste – I think about it as somewhere between sour cream and marcapone cheese. If you can’t find it at your grocery store, then use real sour cream, not light or fat free. The creme fraiche gives the finished soup a silkiness and a little “sour” bite. Lastly, just a little pinch of cayenne pepper gives the soup a little lift.
This soup is easy and quick to make. A handheld immersion blender is the best invention for soups like this. If you don’t have one, just puree it in a couple of batches in a food processor – the result will be the same. So, set the table, open a bottle of red wine, and serve this Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry with some warm crusty bread for a delicious Fall meal with someone special.
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large leeks, white and light green part only, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 large celery stalk, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 4 to 4 1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt, more to taste at the end of the cooking process
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
3 tbsp dry sherry
1 quart chicken stock
1/2 cup or slightly more Fat Free Half & Half
3 tbsp creme fraiche
Pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you like a little more of a “kick”)
Melt the butter in a large stockpot/dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the leek, carrot, celery and garlic and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened – about 5 – 8 minutes. Do not let brown.
Add the squash, nutmeg, pepper and 1/2 tsp salt and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the sherry and cook for a couple of minutes to reduce, then add enough of the chicken stock just to cover the squash and the thyme.
Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 or 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
Using a handheld immersion blender puree soup in the stockpot/dutch oven until smooth. If using a food processor, puree soup in batches and return to pot. Return to a simmer, add the Fat Free Half and Half, taste for salt and pepper. Stir in 2 – 3 tbsp of creme fraiche and add a pinch of cayenne pepper. Adjust for salt and pepper if needed. Serve with a small drizzle of creme fraiche to garnish each bowl if you like. Serves 4 to 6.