Acorn Squash Soup

Greetings, readers!

Kanchana is out of town, so I thought I'd do a bit of guest blogging. If memory serves, my last guest post detailed a particularly horrendous failure in the kitchen - so I'm glad to be back with a story of success.

Ethnic cooks who attempt foods outside of their background are frequently accused of putting some of their ethnicity into their creations - even if they weren't trying to! In spite of such criticism, there is definitely a tremendous value associated with fusion foods not just to the palate, but socially and economically - just look around at the variety of fusion cuisines now widely accepted as well as the number of celebrity chefs who make a living from those cuisines. Without claiming to step into their ranks, here's a recipe that brings together flavors from Southeast Asia and the American heartland. I hope you enjoy it!

Acorn Squash Soup
2 acorn squash
4-5 cups mushroom or vegetable stock (depending on how thick you like your soup)
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup fennel root
1 chopped lemongrass stalk
1/4 cup minced galangal
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 sprig rosemary
2 tsp nutmeg
3 tbsp butter/olive oil

1/4 cup minced fennel
2 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp butter

1. Cut the acorn squash into quarters and coat it with a little olive oil. Top the squash with the one third of the aromatics (reserving the rest for later) - onions, celery, carrots, ginger, galangal, lemongrass (bruise this with a knife to release the oils first), and rosemary. Roast this in the oven at 400 degrees F till fully cooked (approx 40 minutes).

2. Heat some butter in a heavy bottomed soup pot (I like cast iron dutch ovens or enameled cast iron) and add the remaining ginger, galangal, rosemary and lemongrass. Don't let these herbs/spices cook too much - just let them get hot and release some flavor. Toss in the remaining mirepoix and fennel and saute till the carrots are soft. Add the nutmeg.

3. Add the mushroom stock and salt the contents of your soup pot. Keep the heat at a low simmer.

4. Pull the acorn squash out of the oven. Let them cool a little, then peel the skin off - all you need to do is gently tug at it and the flesh will separate from the skin. Taste the aromatics in the roasting pan- if they've browned too much and taste a little bitter, discard them. Otherwise, it's just more flavor in the soup! Add the contents of the roasting pan to the soup pot.

5. Once the flavors have melded together a little, it's time to force them to meld even more. Enter your trusty kitchen blender - I can't say enough about Vitamix. Since K and I have started using a Vitamix (thank you, in-laws!), I have never had to strain a soup! If you have a less powerful blender, just blend for a longer time - sometimes as long as 3 to 5 minutes. Grrrowwrrrr! until the mixture is extremely smooth.

6. Return the mixture to the soup pot and stir in a cup of milk - you could always whisk in a half cup of creme fraiche, but your arteries will thank you for using fat-free milk.

7. For the topping, fry the fennel in some butter until it becomes crisp, add the garlic for a minute (garlic cooks quickly and turns bitter even more quickly). Salt and pepper to taste.

8. Top the soup with the fennel mixture, and a few fennel fronds - Voila!

  • Substitute all butter with olive oil for a lower cholesterol levels.
  • If you don't have access to galangal, just skip it - ginger is NOT a substitute. The two roots look a bit similar but do not taste similar. Besides, there's already ginger in the recipe!
  • If you're not up for lots of chopping, you can leave out the onions/celery/carrots. They should already be in your stock. I prefer adding the mirepoix in both - kind of a double-strong stock. Besides, the additional veggies are good for you too! This recipe is something your mother will love - it makes you eat your vegetables and drink your milk.
  • Similarly, you don't necessarily have to add the aromatics to the roasting pan - it's just really nice how the aromatics roast into the squash.
  • Buy a Vitamix. It's awesome!

So, how does it taste, you ask? Very, very good - squash, rosemary, nutmeg are basic building block to a variety of classically American harvest vegetable soups - think butternut squash, pumpkins, acorn squash, etc. The Southeast Asian flavors - galangal, lemongrass, ginger - work very well with the squash and a hearty mushroom stock really ties it all together. Kanchana scarfed her soup down very quickly, so I'm going to assume that the result is more than just edible.



Savithri said...

Looks delicious! Great post Shankar:)

Janamejayan said...

Bravo! Shankar! We sure want this served when we visit you next time.

Guess who?

Anu said...

Great to see new posts after a loooon hiatus - please don't stop your posts!

s said...

Great looks real nice and appetizing!

Ranjani said...

That's one good looking soup!just curious if the fennel gave the soup a liquorishy taste...?

Gecko said...

It does look delicious, however you could add a new layer to your preparation of American foods if you looked past the "American heartland" viewpoint. Most of these foods have a Native American origin and preparations that go back many thousands of years before an "American heartland" existed.

All squashes originated from the America's and on the North American continent the first peoples planted The Three Sisters, and served them together in a variety of ways. I just find it all fascinating, and noticed your website and thought you might like to check out Native American treatment of Native American foods.


John Browner said...

Great post, thanks for this! By the way, whenever i'm making something like this, I alway use Textuarants