I must admit, winter squash is not my favorite. In my mind, I remember my mother making acorn squash all the time, although probably it was not more than a few times a year. In my mother's defense, she did make the acorn squash palatable by baking it with butter, orange juice and brown sugar. But I remember hating the squash after finishing the bites saturated with the sweet, buttery cooking liquid. As an adult, I have learned to look past my initial aversion to winter squash, but it is still not my favorite. It does give me pause however, thinking about what I make that my kiddos will have an aversion to when they grow up.
During fall, our CSA basket always contains some interesting squash. Last winter, I must confess, I had to throw away some winter squash that had wintered too long in my pantry. So when we started receiving our squash this year, I knew I had to cook it quickly or risk the same squash demise. I have been reading Tom Valenti's Soups, Stews, and One-Pot Meals this week and in it there is a technique of laying strips of bacon across squash while it is baking to give it a nice smokey flavor. Since everything is better with bacon, I took Tom Valenti's recipe for Butternut Squash Soup with Minced Bacon, and changed it to suit my cooking style. The Squash Soup I created has a wonderful, smokey flavor from using the bacon technique, and the texture is smooth and silky from the long, slow cooking.
By the way, I checked Soups, Stews and One-Pot Meals out from the library, but it is now on my "to buy" list. This book is chock full of Italian grandmother type meals. I want to try my hand at his Chicken Hearts and Gizzards in Italian-Style Tomato Sauce next. If I don't tell my children what it is, perhaps their aversion won't be automatic.
Squash Soup with Crumbled Bacon by Joie de vivre
6 lbs. of winter squash (I'm not sure of the variety I used though!)
6 Tbls. unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
Couple sprigs of thyme plus more for plating
1 qt. chicken stock
1 can (15 oz.) beef stock
Salt and pepper
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Cut your squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Lay strips of bacon across the open face of each squash half and place open side up on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake until a fork can pierce the squash flesh easily. Mine took 1 hour to bake, you can start checking on yours after 40 minutes or so depending on the variety of squash you are using. Remove the bacon to paper towel lined plates and let the squash cool slightly. Crumble bacon when cool and set aside.
In a large soup pot over medium heat, pour the melted butter from the squash or drizzle in some olive oil. Saute the onion over medium low heat until softened, but not browned. Put in the thyme sprigs and the bay leaf and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Scoop squash into the bowl and stir for 1 minute constantly so squash does not scorch. Pour in the stocks and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and bring soup to a boil. After bringing soup to a boil, turn heat down, partially cover, and let simmer very gently for an hour. Fish out the thyme and bay leaf with tongs and puree soup with an immersion blender.
To serve: Ladle into bowls, top with some crumbled bacon and sprinkle with additional thyme leaves.