Okay, so this is one of my blog posts that has a long involved back-story, and since there is nobody here to tell me to cut to the chase except for the dog (who can’t talk) and the Southern husband (who is WAY too smart to say anything of this nature) I’m going to go ahead and tell it. Take comfort in the fact that it will be broken up with some entertaining pictures. At least I think they are entertaining.
So to start at the beginning, a while back I was invited to take a series of pictures of chefs from restaurants in our area. For a food groupie like me, this was a fabulous assignment, and I met a bunch of terrifically talented people this way (and got to sample some rocking good food along the way.) Here’s the first chef I photographed for this project:
Part of the assignment was to photograph each chef holding a copy of their favorite cookbook, which worked out to be double bonus points for me, because what better recommendation can a cookbook have then to be a chef’s favorite? So of course, I followed the directions and asked Chef Calcagno to please bring a copy of his favorite cookbook to be photographed with. He selected THE NEW RED LION INN COOKBOOK.
Now on this particular shoot the Southern husband was helping me. Which he is great at, and which has the added benefit of me being able to order him around and not get any back-talk. Anyway, he was browsing through this book while I was doing the rest of the shoot, and he must have liked what he saw because lo and behold, I came home to find my very own copy sitting on my desk a couple of weeks later. (Which made me feel a little tiny bit guilty about the whole ordering-around thing.)
I promise there is a point to all of this and here it is: this fabulous butternut soup is taken from this great cookbook. It’s a thick, delicious soup that involves cooking up chopped onion, carrots, celery, fresh thyme and a whole lot of butternut squash in a mixture of chicken broth and cider, and then pureeing the whole thing. When you have it all nice and smooth and pureed, the recipe gives you the choice of thinning it down with either more broth, more cider or heavy cream. I had about 1/4 cup of heavy cream in my fridge and it seemed like destiny to me, but honestly, it would have been pretty much close to perfect even without that. I swirled a teeny bit of cinnamon on the top and got this:
But I couldn’t leave well enough alone. No, I knew in my heart of hearts that there was one more thing that could push this soup over the edge to true greatness.
Yep. Popcorn. (Red Lion Inn people, if you are out there, I hope I didn’t just horrify you.) But it brought just the right amount of salty crunch to this sweet and scrumptious soup. I put the popcorn in a bowl right there on the table and we scattered it on top as we ate…the popcorn will sink pretty quickly as it absorbs the soup, but trust me when I say this is a GOOD thing.
I will be quiet now and give you the recipe already.
Adapted from the New Red Lion Inn Cookbook
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, chopped
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 stalk celery, sliced
- 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups apple cider
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional but great)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cinnamon sugar for garnish
- Popcorn for garnish (also optional and also great)
- Heat oil in large pot over medium heat and saute onions, carrot and celery for about 5 minutes. Add squash and thyme and saute, stirring, for another two minutes.
- Add stock and cider and simmer until squash until very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Puree with immersion blender or in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot and add cream if using, and salt and pepper to taste. Reheat over low heat.
- Serve, garnished with cinnamon sugar. Put popcorn on table for diners to add as desired.