Buttercup Squash and Leek Soup

I found a new variety of squash in the store last week – buttercup squash. I had never seen these squash before, so I grabbed 4 of them (since they are on the small side) and went home to get online to see what I could find to do with them. The answer of course was soup!

I know that most squash are similar in texture and taste. However, these little round buttercup squash are a bit different. They have a subtle, earthy flavor and are unlike the other squash I frequently use (acorn, butternut, hubbard). They also do not have very much flesh when you cut them open (especially on the top side), so they are more difficult to work with when trying to cut them up.

The recipe that I used was from Fine Cooking. It called for peeling and chopping the squash and then boiling the squash with the leeks in chicken broth. I knew that roasting them in the oven and then scooping the flesh would be the quicker (and usually the tastier) option, however, I wanted to try the recipe as it was written. I was curious to see how flavorful this soup would be since the recipe was so basic and the ingredients so simple, so I did the preparation of the squash as it suggested. I kept thinking I was crazy the entire time I was involved in the tedious job of peeling and chopping. And several times I almost popped these little guys in the oven, but instead, I finished the task at hand!

I have made some additions and changes to the original recipe. First of all, I left out the herb butter that was to top the finished soup. Who needs all those calories? This soup is actually pretty healthy stuff! Instead, I finished the soup with a few of the same ingredients that were present in the herb butter (sherry and chives) and added a dollop of crème fraîche (that’s just a few little calories…).

The crème fraîche was a nice contrast to the earthy flavor of the squash and added a bit of sweetness. It also cut the heat of the white pepper. The recipe calls for 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of white pepper! I went with the 1 teaspoon and that definitely gave the soup a good bit of heat. My recommendation would be to start with a 1/2 teaspoon and work up from there. There was also a large amount of salt in the recipe. I cut that by more than half and added some later to taste (it is better to add it as you go than to have too much salt at the end).

The recipe calls for 4 cups of chopped leeks (they say that is 3 leeks using the white part only). Now, that would be the case if we were in France where I have seen leeks with 5 inch white sections, however, the leeks in Atlanta never have a very large white section (no matter where I shop). I happened to have 4 leeks in the fridge and I used all 4 (both white and light green parts) and I got 3 cups of chopped leeks. I do not think using the green part compromised the flavor at all, so I say go for it, unless you want to buy 6 leeks!

It also took all 4 of the buttercup squash to yield 8 cups of chopped squash (not 3 squash as the recipe suggested). I would not change anything that I did (other than a bit less pepper). I thought that it was delicious, quite healthy (definitely low-fat, even with a small amount of crème fraîche) and a nice change from all the known variations of butternut squash soup!

Here is my adaption:

Buttercup Squash and Leek Soup

Makes approximately 10 cups

3 cups chopped, well-washed leeks, white and light green parts only (I used 4 good-sized leeks)
8 cups peeled, seeded and diced (1-inch cubes) buttercup squash (It took 4 buttercup squash)
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
6 cups homemade or low-salt chicken broth (I used Swanson’s Organic)
1 Tbsp. kosher salt (you will need more salt at the end) (The original recipe called for 2 1/2 Tbsp. salt!)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper (more if you are brave)
2 Tbsp. plus dry sherry, to taste (I probably doused the soup with about 1/4 cup)
additional salt of your preference to taste (I used sea salt)
crème fraîche and chopped chives to garnish

Put the leeks in a large Dutch oven or stockpot (not aluminum).

Add the squash, wine and chicken broth. Cover and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer; cook until the squash is fork tender, about 25 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Add the salt and pepper; puree in a blender or food processor in batches.

Return to the pot and cook on low for 10 to 15 minutes more (The directions said to serve the soup after pureeing, however, I prefer to cook the soup a bit longer). Add sherry and salt to taste. Serve with crème fraîche and chopped chives.

Another soup perfect for a cold and snowy Winter’s day (and we have sure had a lot of those!). Bon Appetit!

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