Buttered…stuff

Just reached that point in the day where I have to decide between a nap and a Red Bull. My sleep schedule sucks. It’s not because I’m all burdened with taking care of sick children vomiting on the dog in the middle of the night, or fighting through pouring rain to get to the office at 7 a.m. so that I can surf the internet in a quiet cube for 30 minutes before my despicable boss shows up. Actually, I think it’s from NOT being at work at 7 a.m. or having sick children up all night. I think my days are so chill that I’m never exhausted, meaning that 10 p.m. isn’t so much a relief from a hectic day as it is just a meandering taper down from daily activity.

I’m not complaining. There will be years as a parent where I’ll be gasping, gagging, pleading for 15 minutes of uninterrupted sleep. I know that, so I am really trying to enjoy my free time while I have it. And I do enjoy it, it just makes sleep difficult. I think I’ll enjoy it more back in Colorado, where I can deliver lattes to my mother at her library, or meet Becky for lunch at the Med, or ride my bike up Cherry Creek trail with my dog in tow, and just generally dance gleefully amidst beautiful scenery and people I love.

Fortunately, the weather in San Antonio is taking a turn for the worse. What this means to me is that the weather is taking a turn for the better. It was 58 degrees this morning when I left for bootcamp. 58 gloriously crisp degrees!! I celebrated by driving with the windows down. And the sun is still out, shining through the slight chill in the air. It really reminds me of home, except for that there are homicidal ants laying waste to every square inch of available soil here, so there’s to be no rolling around in the grass or picnics or any such merriment.

It does mean that I’m rolling out more and more Fall foods, and they make me really happy.

If I’m ever stuck as a governess to seven children in Austria, and I’m forced to sew them playclothes out of ugly curtains because their strict-but-handsome father doesn’t believe in fun, and I have to sing a song about my favorite things, here is how it will go:

Bellies on puppies and whiskers on kittens
Brandy in eggnog and pink North Face mittens
Any package for me that is tied up with string
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cozy corn chowder and caramel apple streudels
Brandy in eggnog and prime beef tips on noodles
Cookies and frosting that gets lodged in my ring
These are a few of my favorite things

Sweatpants and snowboots and Smashbox on lashes
Brandy in eggnog at holiday bashes
A home with real seasons like winter and spring
These are a few of my favorite things

When the ant bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favorite things
and then I still feel pretty bad, because I mean, COME ON–the ants can bite AND sting at the same time. And there’s no snow. I mean, WTF?? I’m going to go drink some brandy in eggnog.

Anyway…where was I?

Oh yes. Fall foods. A friend of ours who works with Chris was sweet enough to get me the Bouchon cookbook for no reason except that she’s generous to a fault. I almost cried, I was so touched. Who does things like that? Oh yes! Becky! She got me a tank top that shows where the separate belly for desserts is located. But aside from those two, who does things like that? Ach. Sweethearts.

The Bouchon cookbook is gorgeous and full of food that I am completely gay for, and I immediately began cooking from it. Last night was a gorgeous, hearty, and virtually calorie-free dinner of butternut soup with brown butter and nutmeg creme fraiche. Not completely calorie-free, mind you, but certainly not a diet-breaker.

I changed things a little bit, mostly to avoid lawsuit, but also so you could make it at home. Give this a try– it’s totally vegetarian, which is great for those of us who try to eat meat-free occasionally (I still implore you to try for once a week), but also would be a super-impressive starter for a Thanksgiving meal.

Roasted butternut soup with brown butter and nutmeg creme fraiche
(Adapted from Thomas Keller’s “Bouchon”)

Serves 2 fatties or 12 Olson twins. It served two of us, with a couple of spoonfuls leftover for the dog, who bizarrely is really into squash.

1 (2-3 lb) butternut squash
3 T neutral-flavored oil
1/2 t rubbed sage (or some chopped fresh)
2 (large) shallots, thinly sliced
1 (medium) yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 (large) carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, smashed
a leek, if you’ve got it, thinly sliced
5 C vegetable stock
2 T honey
1/4 t thyme
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 C creme fraiche or sour cream
1 t honey
1/4 t nutmeg, freshly ground
3 T salted butter

Method:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut the butternut in half, oil each side and sprinkle with salt and sage. Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, or until tender (as tested by inserting a knife into the squash–if it’s ready, the knife will slip right out).

Meanwhile, sweat the other vegetables in the oil in a stockpot or other large-ish vessel. Don’t allow them to color. Add a touch of salt and pepper, and continue sweating them until they’re completely soft.

When the butternut is roasted, remove it and allow it to cool for a few minutes until you can handle it with minimal second degree burns. Scoop the flesh out into the pot and briefly stir with the vegetables. Add the honey and stir again to distribute. Add the stock and simmer for about 20 minutes to allow all the flavors to meld.

Working in small batches so you don’t scald your arms and end up looking like violent Halloween characters, puree the soup using a blender. In a Vita-Mix this is a relatively simple task. In a regular blender it’ll take slightly longer and be slightly more dangerous re: possible shooting hot liquid. So be very careful. When the mixture is completely smooth, strain it and taste it. Add salt and pepper as necessary, and stock to thin it out if it’s too thick. If it’s too thin, put it back on the stove to reduce a bit. You’ll have to re-strain if you do any more simmering.

In a bowl, whisk the creme fraiche/sour cream with honey and nutmeg until it’s thick and homogenous.

In a small pan, heat the butter just until it is slightly golden and begins to smell nutty. Ladle the soup into bowls. Garnish with a spoonful of creme fraiche, a drizzle of brown butter and sprinkle with chives or chopped sage.

Et voila! You have butternut soup that takes minimal effort and ingredients, is a very inexpensive Thanksgiving dish, and is deliciously nutritious. Low-calorie Thanksgiving food? Yes–it’s possible. Not that I advocate dieting on Thanksgiving. I’m just saying you can save more of your calorie budget for pie this way.

I also made the vanilla bean sugar cookies, which were fabulously tasty with raspberry jam. I will say that the recipe calls for no leavening, which left the outcome much more like a lightly sweet shortbread than a cookie. Thus the application of seed-free raspberry jam. I ate, at last count, 12 of them. And some dough. That’s why I spent the morning at bootcamp, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, go try the soup and tell me what you think. I was impressed, especially given my tenuous relationship with squash.

Eating twelve cookies and a slice of pumpkin cake
Watching leaves fall for someone else to come rake
Festive grocery shopping and eating like kings
These are a few of my favorite things.

6 thoughts on “Buttered…stuff”

  1. Butternut soup is always delicious, but I like the brown butter in there. Brown butter gives me a boner. Keep it up with the squash, Kristie!

    Do you like brandy in egg nog, by chance?

  2. yum yum. i'll make this next week for our friday soup day. we can get all those veggies at our farmers market right now. do i scoop the seeds out of the squash when i cut it in half?

  3. ha ha – what a great post. I loved the song and I can totally see you singing it. Remember when we were poets after a awful attempt at snickerdoodles from some crazy old bat on the cover of a cookbook? We wrote poems and songs after that too.

  4. DELISH!!! (Thats not a RR word, is it?) I was going to say delicios-o but thats a DORA thing and I hate that little girl. Seriously. But….the soup looks and sounds delicous. And we totally do the meatless thing at least once a week in our house. I will definitely try something very similar to that soup soon. I have a new (grown up inspired) fondness for butternut squash. As a child I only liked yellow squash and the occasional zucchini. Looks like I will be making a trip to the WhoFo

  5. I kept meaning to comment on this and kept forgetting. I love that we made totally different butternut squash soups at the same time, because I'm the kind of dork who loves coincidence.

    I have to give myself an itinerary ever day, even if it's a weekend – otherwise I don't actually get anything done and then I get stressed that I'm lagging behind, then I get angry at myself for being a lazy S.O.B so i usually pour a cocktail to try and relax, drink to much, oversleep and the cycle starts again. Mine is not a life of efficiency OR glamour.

    PS – fat free eggnog = OH GOD YES.

  6. Keep feeding him squash and see if you don't have some dog vomit to clean up in the near future.

    Maybe you could invent a cocktail with squash and amaretto and butter and Kahlua and Bailey's and whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. You could call it "it's raining men."

    I made exactly one recipe from Bouchon (you remember, on TNS) and it was good. But I don't need herr Keller to tell me how to make squash soup. Plus, lifting the big heavy book makes me tired.

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