Thomas Keller’s Butternut Squash Soup with Brown Butter

While unloading my CSA box, I spoke with another member about what she was making with all of the butternut squash we were receiving in our share. She said that there was no better way to use it than this soup! It was a great recommendation.

This recipe was adapted from Thomas Keller’s “Bouchon,” via The New York Times, contributed by Amanda Hesser. Hesser described it as “astonishingly flavorful and complex.” It was creamy, silky, and incredibly delicious. I made it for my mom on her birthday! 🙂 It would also be wonderful as part of a holiday meal.

I loved that it incorporated leeks, shallots, and yellow onions- and brown butter, of course. The toppings also gave it a lovely presentation.

Yield: Serves 6

  • 1 3-to-3½-pound butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs sage
  • 1 cup thinly sliced leeks (about 2 leeks)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots (about 2 carrots)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock, more if needed
  • Bouquet Garni made of 8 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs Italian parsley, 2 bay leaves and ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, all wrapped in a packet made of 2 green leek leaves or cheesecloth
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced chives
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (I set my oven to convection roast.) Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Cut the neck off the squash and set it aside. Cut the bulb in half and scoop out and discard seeds. Brush each half inside and out with about 1½ teaspoons of the canola oil. Sprinkle the cavities with salt and pepper and tuck a sprig of sage into each. Place cut-side-down on the baking sheet and roast until completely tender, about 1 hour. Remove the squash from the oven and let cool, then scoop out and reserve the flesh (discard sage).
  3. Meanwhile, using a paring knife, peel away the skin from the neck of the squash until you reach the bright orange flesh. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces (you should have about 4 cups).
  4. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise and thinly slice into half moons. Soak in a bowl of water. Using a slotted spoon, lift from the top before using.
  5. Put the remaining canola oil in a stockpot over medium-high heat, add the leeks, carrots, shallots and onions and cook, stirring often, for about 6 minutes.
  6. Add the diced squash, garlic, 11/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook gently for 3 minutes, reducing the heat as necessary to keep the garlic and squash from coloring.
  7. Stir in the honey and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Add the stock and bouquet garni, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until the squash is tender.
  9. Add the roasted squash and simmer gently for about 30 minutes for the flavors to blend.
  10. Remove from the heat and discard the bouquet garni.
  11. Transfer the soup to a blender, in batches, and purée. Alternatively, use an immersion blender in the pot.
  12. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. Let the soup cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve.
  13. Place the crème fraîche in a small chilled bowl and stir in nutmeg to taste. Whisk until the crème fraîche holds a shape. Cover and refrigerate.
  14. Gently reheat the soup until just hot. If it is too thick, add a little more stock.
  15. Heat a medium skillet or butter warmer medium-over high heat. When it is very hot, add the butter and rotate the skillet over the heat as necessary to brown the butter evenly, scraping up any bits that settle in the bottom. As soon as the butter is a hazelnut brown, pour it into the pot of soup — keep a safe distance, it may sputter — then stir.
  16. Ladle the soup into six serving bowls. Top each with a dollop of crème fraîche. Grind some black pepper over the top and sprinkle on the chives. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top.

Citrus Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower with Queso Cotija Dressing

As soon as I saw Mexican chef Pati Jinich prepare this dish on her PBS show, I had to make it. 🙂 I bought beautiful purple cauliflower and purple broccoli at the farm stand to make it extra special. We ate it with Mexican-Style Chipotle-Lime Pork Cutlets.

The salty, cheesy sauce was absolutely incredible. I loved how the vegetables were sliced into steaks instead of florets as well. I trimmed the tough outer portion of each stem but would remove even more next time to make that portion more tender.

This recipe was adapted from Pati’s Mexican Table and patijinich.com, via kcet.org. It was on an episode featuring dishes inspired by Isla Mujeres. I substituted creme fraiche for the Mexican crema. I also modified the method and proportions. Amazing!

Yield: Serves 6

For the Vegetables:

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (I used 2 limes)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (I used 1 large naval orange)
  • 3 chopped chiles de arbol or 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing/drizzling
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds broccoli, cut into 1/4″ vertical slices, including thick part of stem (I used 2 large heads)
  • 2 pounds cauliflower, cut into 1/4″ vertical slices, including thick part of stem (I used 1 large head)

For the Queso Cojita Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso cotija
  • 2/3 cup Mexican crema or creme fraîche
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used Canola oil)
  • 2 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 T water
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

To Prepare the Vegetables:

  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. ( I set my oven to convection roast.)
  2. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. In a glass measuring cup with a spout, mix the lime juice, orange juice, olive oil, red pepper flakes (or chile de arbol), 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Place the cauliflower and broccoli steaks on the prepared baking sheets in a single layer, making sure that they are not crowded.
  5. Evenly pour the orange juice mixture all over the vegetables.
  6. Place in the oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until well roasted and considerably charred. Remove from the oven and set aside.

To Make the Dressing & To Serve:

  1. While the vegetables are roasting, combine the queso cotija, Mexican crema (or creme fraîche), vegetable oil, sherry vinegar, water, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in the jar of a blender or mixer. Puree until smooth. (I used a Vitamix.)
  2. Serve the broccoli and cauliflower on a large platter and ladle the queso cotija right on top, or let your guests spoon sauce onto their plates and dip their vegetables in the sauce to their liking. (I served the sauce in a bowl on the side.)

Poblano Chicken Chili

My husband would like to eat chili every week in the winter, so I enjoy trying different versions. I was immediately drawn to this recipe because it incorporates poblano chilies, my favorite. I loved the salsa verde shortcut as well. It would be perfect for a Super Bowl feast.

This recipe was adapted from True Comfort: More Than 100 Cozy Recipes Free of Gluten and Refined Sugar by Kristin Cavallari, via Good Morning America.com. I modified the method and proportions. I also topped the chili with crème fraîche instead of cashew crema because poblanos and crème fraîche are one of our ultimate flavor combinations. It offset the heat perfectly. Directions for the cashew crema are included below for a dairy-free version.

Yield: Serves 8

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or avocado oil
  • 2 to 2 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (8 to 10 chicken thighs)
  • 2 poblano chiles, seeds removed, chopped
  • 1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • coarse salt or pink Himalayan salt
  • 2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chiles
  • 12 oz jarred salsa verde (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 (19-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 avocado, diced or sliced, for garnish
  • crème fraîche, sour cream, or cashew crema (recipe below), for garnish
  • thinly sliced scallions, for garnish, optional
  • cilantro, for garnish, optional
  1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven set over medium to medium-high heat.
  2. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the chicken pieces are browned, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Add the poblanos, onion, and jalapeño, season with salt and pepper, and continue cooking until the onion has softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, oregano, garlic powder, pepper, onion powder and a big pinch of salt. Stir, and cook for 5 minutes, until fragrant.
  5. Reduce the heat to low and add the canned green chiles, salsa verde, and cannellini beans; cook for 5 minutes, stirring it occasionally to bring the flavors together.
  6. Bring the heat back up to medium and add the chicken stock. Bring the chili to a simmer, reduce the heat, and let it cook, occasionally stirring it from the bottom to prevent burning, for about 1 hour, or more, until desired thickness is achieved.
  7. Just before serving, add lime juice; stir to incorporate. Adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, as needed.
  8. Garnish each bowl of chili with avocado and a dollop of crème fraîche, sour cream or cashew crema (recipe below). Top with a sprinkle of sliced scallions and/or minced cilantro, as desired.

For the Cashew Crema:

  1. Place 1 cup of raw cashews in a high-powered blender and add half a cup of water.
  2. Blend on high speed until the crema is completely smooth, 2 minutes.

Note: The crema will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

White Borscht

Before I was introduced to this recipe, I thought that borscht was always a deep red, beet-based soup. I now know that borscht means “sour.” The sour tang in this soup comes from soaking sourdough bread in the broth, puréeing it, and incorporating it into the finished soup, along with crème fraiche which is stirred in just prior to serving.

I made my first homemade borscht (the beet-based version) for Christmas Eve, and my husband purchased pierogies at a Polish store for the same meal. Luckily, I saw this recipe and he was also able to buy house-made garlic kielbasa for this soup. The quality of the kielbasa is very important because it is used to create the broth for the base of this soup.

This recipe is from The New York Times, contributed by Gabrielle Hamilton.  I followed the recipe closely, but may decrease the amount of butter next time- I’m not sure it was necessary! (but it was quite delicious 😉 ) It was a creamy, indulgent, and delicious upgrade of potato-leek soup. Fabulous cold-weather comfort food.

Yield: 5 quarts, Serves 10 to 12

  • 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds full horseshoe link of high-quality smoked kielbasa
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 3 pounds leeks (6 long, lively leeks)
  • 3 pounds russet potatoes (about 4)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 large yellow onion, small-diced (about 2 cups)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 (4-ounce) hunk of dense, very sour sourdough bread, crusts removed
  • 1 full tablespoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup crème fraîche
  • 1 bunch fresh dill, woody stems removed, fronds minced

Stovetop Mushroom Lasagna

This easy and creamy vegetarian stovetop lasagna was very well received by my family. 😉 The original recipe said that it wasn’t as pretty as a typical baked and layered lasagna, but I thought that it looked pretty appealing.

The recipe was adapted from Bon Appétit, contributed by Sarah Jampel. I increased the amount of mushrooms and garlic. I also used no-boil lasagna noodles. It is a perfect weeknight dish.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 5 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12 to 16 oz mixed mushrooms (such as maitake, oyster, shiitake, and/or crimini), trimmed, cut or torn into 1″ pieces (I used stemmed & quartered cremini mushrooms)
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 T thyme leaves
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 3 to 6 garlic cloves, finely grated or chopped
  • 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 2 3/4 cups whole milk
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • lemon zest, plus wedges for serving, optional
  • 1/3 cup crème fraîche or thinned sour cream
  • 8 to 9 oz regular lasagna noodles, broken in half (no-boil okay)
  • 4 to 5 oz mozzarella, thinly sliced
  • finely grated Parmesan, for serving
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large high-sided ovenproof skillet (preferably with a lid) or small Dutch oven over medium-high. (I used a large, wide enameled cast iron pot.)
  2. Add mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, until starting to brown, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and cook, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, 5–7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; mix in thyme.
  3. Meanwhile, finely chop the shallot and garlic cloves in the bowl of a mini food processor.
  4. Reduce heat to medium-low. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Add shallot and garlic and cook, stirring, until starting to soften, about 1 minute.
  5. Sprinkle flour over and cook, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute.
  6. Add milk, pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 3/4 cups water, then finely grate zest of 1/4 lemon into pan. Stir to dissolve flour, increase heat to medium, and cook until gently bubbling.
  7. Reduce heat to low, whisk in crème fraîche (or sour cream), and stir to combine.
  8. Add about one third of noodles, pushing down into sauce to submerge, followed by a third of the mushrooms.
  9. Repeat with half of remaining noodles and mushrooms.
  10. Top with another layer of noodles. **Set remaining mushrooms aside.**
  11. Cover with a lid or foil and cook 15 minutes. (If lasagna threatens to boil over, use very lowest heat and/or prop open the cover.)
  12. Uncover; cook, gently lifting and separating noodles occasionally with tongs or a spatula to let sauce flow around, until sauce is thickened and noodles are cooked through, 6–10 minutes. Mixture should be bubbling gently; adjust heat as necessary. Remove from heat.
  13. Heat broiler. Top lasagna with mozzarella and reserved mushrooms.
  14. Broil until cheese is bubbling and browned in spots, about 2 minutes.
  15. Finely grate more lemon zest over. Sprinkle with Parmesan; season with pepper.
  16. Let sit 5–10 minutes. Cut lemon into wedges, if desired, and serve with lasagna.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Pecan pie bars are a favorite Thanksgiving dessert in our house. I chose this pumpkin pie version to serve along with a tried and true brown-butter and vanilla bean apple pie for our intimate Thanksgiving feast. (Yes, we had leftover dessert for at least a week!)

This recipe was adapted from a “staff favorite” Food and Wine recipe, contributed by Sarah Jordan. I appreciated the press-in crust and we all absolutely loved the consistency of the bars. Pie bars have the bonus of easier portion control too- which is crucial on Thanksgiving. 😉 Great.

Yield: Makes on 9×13-inch pie

For the Press-In-Crust:

  • 2 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour sifted with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, cream the butter with the sugars at medium speed for 2 minutes.
  2. With the mixer at low speed, beat in the sifted flour-and-salt mixture.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°, preferably on convection.
  4. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of overhang on the 2 long sides. (I used a pyrex pan.)
  5. Transfer the dough to the pan and press it over the bottom and 1 1/4 inches up the side all around. (You can cover the dough with plastic wrap and press with the bottom of a measuring cup.) Be sure the corners are not too thick.
  6. Refrigerate until firm.
  7. Bake the crust for 25 to 35 minutes, until golden brown; halfway through baking, use the back of a spoon to smooth the sides and corners of the crust.
  8. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the crust cool before filling.

For the Filling:

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cardamom, optional (I omitted it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • One 15-ounce can pure pumpkin puree
  • One 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • Baked Press-In Crust (above)
  • crème fraîche or whipped cream, for serving, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°, preferably on convection.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the sugars with the spices and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs.
  4. Whisk in the sugar mixture, then whisk in the pumpkin puree and the evaporated milk until smooth.
  5. Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 10 minutes.
  6. Lower the oven temperature to 350° and bake for about 25 minutes longer, until the filling is fully set.
  7. Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool completely.
  8. Cut into bars and serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche, as desired.

Note: Bars should be stored in the refrigerator. Serve chilled or at room temperature. (I prepared them a day prior to serving.)

Corn & Ricotta Sformato

Now that it’s the very very tail end of corn season, I have a couple fresh corn recipes to share. I hope I’m not too late. :/ We ate this cheesy dish for dinner but it would be wonderful for brunch as well. I also think that it could be prepared with frozen corn (gasp!) and served as a holiday side dish.

This recipe was adapted from The New York Times, contributed by Clare de Boer. I used Kosher salt and modified the proportions. I also modified the baking dish (to have more crispy crust) and baking time. The lemony basil oil topping added a bright contrast to the indulgent and delicious dish.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 6 ears fresh corn, kernels removed (about 5 cups kernels), cobs discarded
  • 2 tsp coarse salt, plus more to taste
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 cups fresh whole milk ricotta
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan, divided (I used Parmigiano-Reggiano)
  • 4 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/3 packed cup fresh basil leaves (about 20 leaves)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 lemon)
  1. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.
  2. Add the corn kernels and 1 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.
  3. Transfer half the kernels to a food processor and purée with 2 tablespoons olive oil. (I used a Vitamix.)
  4. Transfer the corn kernels and puréed corn to a large bowl and let cool, about 30 minutes.
  5. Heat the oven to 450 degrees, preferably on convection.
  6. When the corn mixture has cooled, add the ricotta, heavy cream, crème fraîche/sour cream, 1 cup Parmesan and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt; season to taste with more salt, if desired.
  7. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to stiff peaks on high speed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  8. Stir the yolks into the ricotta mixture until combined then gently fold in the whites, working delicately to avoid deflating.
  9. Rub the sides and crannies of a 6-by-10-inch oval or 8-by-8-inch square (or similar 2-inch-deep) baking dish with a knob of butter. (I used a 8×10-inch oval dish.) Add 2 to 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan, knocking it around the baking dish to coat the entire thing, then follow with a few grinds of pepper.
  10. Pour the ricotta batter into the dish. Bake for 25 minutes and then remove from oven and top with another 3 tablespoons Parmesan.  Continue to bake until the cheese has browned and the sformata has set in the center, about 5 additional minutes, a total of 30 to 40 minutes.
  11. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the basil with the lemon juice and a pinch of salt, then stir in the remaining 1/4 cup oil.
  12. Just before serving, top the warm sformata with the remaining grated Parmesan, drizzle with basil oil and serve.

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