Among all of the fall/winter squash, I love kabocha the most. Kabocha squash is sweet and less fibery than her cousins butternut or spaghetti squash. The best kabochas are the ones with grayish, sometimes with orange spots, with tough outer skin; the bumpier the better. Green kabochas are too young and not quite as sweet.
This soup is easy to make and bursting with natural flavor. We use three different kinds of onions here to flavor the soup (four if you are counting the garlic), and the roasted kabocha adds a depth of flavor into the otherwise humble dish. It is a bit labor-intensive: it requires roasting kabocha ahead of time, chopping and dicing the rest of the ingredients. But once made, you have a big pot of soup waiting for you to snack on after that long cold walk outside.
Kabocha Squash Soup
loosely adapted from Thomas Keller The French Laundry Butternut Squash Soup
Makes one big pot
1 medium-large kabocha squash
Canola oil/other vegetable oil with high smoking point (peanut, coconut, etc.)
1 medium leek
1 large shallot
1 small onion
1-2 medium carrots
3-5 garlic cloves
1-2 T olive oil for sauteeing
4 cups of water or broth
Herbs for bouquet garni:
2-3 sprigs of parsley
2-3 sprigs of thyme
4-5 sage leaves
1 bay leave
5-8 whole peppercorns
salt, pepper, soy sauce and honey to season, maybe a bit of vinegar to brighten up the flavor.
Garnish: brown butter, bits of crisp bacon, creme fraiche, fried shallots, anything you like. We love brown butter so I'll include below on how to make them.
For a helpful overview, see my Vine video here.
- Slice kabocha squash length-wise. Be careful, it is quite tough. Scoop out seeds, discard. Coat squash halves with canola oil (or oil that has high smoking point, olive oil won't work as it'll smoke up your house!). Roast squash halves in 425F oven for approx 30-45 minutes or until very soft. Let cool. Scoop out flesh and roughly cut into 1 inch cube. Set aside. This step can be done the night before you want to make the soup/while watching your fave Friday night movie.
- Roughly chop leek, shallots and onion. Get the tissue ready cause they'll make you cry. Set aside a few large leek leaves (the green part) for making bouquet garni.
- Heat a large soup pot/dutch oven. Sweat leek, shallots, and onion until translucent, about 10-15 minutes over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper.
- While the onions are cooking, chop the carrot and finely minced garlic. Add them to the pot along with the onion, cook another 10 minutes.
- Make your bouquet garni: put the herbs inside the leek leaves, tie them with kitchen string. You can put the whole peppercorns directly into the pot inside a sachet bag esp. made for bouquet garni.
- Add approximately 4 cups of water/broth into the pot and bouquet garni. Increase heat and bring everything to a boil. Cover, lower heat, then simmer for 15-20 minutes until carrots are tender and bouquet garni infuses the broth.
- At this point, fish out the loose peppercorns (they are quite unpleasant when accidentally bitten) but you can leave the rest of the bouquet garni in.
- Tip over the squash, bring to boil once again for another 10 minutes until heated through.
- Fish out the bouquet garni. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, soy sauce (it adds a certain umami taste to it) and honey if desired.
- Puree soup in batches, either using immersion blender or regular blender. Be careful, soup is hot!
- Serve with a swig of brown butter.
A proper Beurre Noisette requires slowly heating the butter over low heat until the milk solids and the milk fat separates. I don't have that much time, I just used "burned" or "browned" butter which produces the same taste without the elegance of real beurre noisette.
Simply heat a small sauté pan over high heat for a few minutes. When the pan is very hot (you can test this by sprinkling a bit of water on it. If the water spatters right away, then the pan is ready), throw in about 1/2 stick (4 Tbs) butter. Once the butter is all melted, take the pan off the heat and swirl the butter around for even browning, be careful to keep your distance otherwise it may splatter on you.
If you'd like to flavor the whole pot of soup with brown butter, you can do this step right after your soup is done cooking and pour this very hot butter into your still hot soup. Otherwise, you can keep the butter warm and liquid to drizzle on top of individual soup bowl.