Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Butternut Soup with Pear, Cider, and Vanilla Bean

I love this soup and I love seeing the little flecks of vanilla bean in each bite.  My little ones were not super thrilled about my choice for dinner, but it was okay because it left more yummy soup for me (it made a great lunch)!

Butternut Soup with Pear, Cider, and Vanilla Bean

3 tablespoons olive oil
One 2 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into
 1-inch cubes (about 4 generous cups)
2 firm-ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
(About 2 cups)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup apple cider or unfiltered apple juice
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup half-and-half or cream
1 vanilla bean
Buttered Cinnamon-Sugar Croutons, for garnish

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or small stockpot over medium-low heat.  Add the squash, pears, and onion and stir to coat with oil.  Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and transparent and the pears are starting to fall apart.

Add the cider and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Add the broth, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the mixture, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, until squash is tender.

Using a blender or food processor and working in small batches-don't fill your blender jar more than one-third full; hot liquids expand-puree until very smooth.  Return the soup to the stockpot and add the salt.  Continue to cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat, until the soup has reduced to about one-half to one-third of its original volume.  Stir occasionally.  The final consistency is up to you; when it reaches a thickness that seems right-not too thin, not too thick-it's ready.

While the soup is reducing, put the half-and-half in a small saucepan.  Using a sharp knife split the vanilla bean in half from tip to tip.  Using the back of your knife, scrape the tiny black seeds out of the pod.  Scoop the seeds and the pod into the saucepan with the half-and-half, and warm it over low heat, swirling occasionally, until it steams.  Do not allow it to boil.  Pull it from the heat, remove and discard the pod, and whisk to break up any clumps of seeds.  Set aside.

When the soup has reduced to your desired thickness, stir in the infused half-and-half.  Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.  Serve, garnish with cinnamon-sugar croutons.

*The flavor of this soup is even better the next day!

Recipe from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg

Buttered Cinnamon-Sugar Croutons

6 slices French bread, cubed
1/4 cup butter, melted and browned
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300 F.  Melt butter in a small/medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty.  Stir frequently, scraping up any bits form the bottom as you do.  Keep your eyes on it; it burns very quickly after it browns.

Toss cubes of bread with browned butter.  Combine the sugar and cinnamon, and toss with bread cubes.  Spread bread cubes on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 30 minutes or until crisp; stir bread cubes halfway through baking.

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