Gastronomy 101, a blog about food and Los Angeles restaurants

SEASONAL COOKING: Acorn Squash Bisque

This won't be the last squash post you'll see around here, so get used to it. Winter squash and the soups that they transform to are one of the best things about winter. Sitting under a woolly blanket with a steaming bowl of thick, sweet and spicy squash soup is sure sign it's winter, even in L.A. (Hey, it gets cold at night here!)

About Acorn Squash: Acorn squash is a winter squash that is dark green on the outside and orange/yellow on the inside. It is native to America and the first Western settlers to come upon it actually thought it was a type of melon. Whoops!

If you are considering growing this yourself, it is very easy to grow and can be directly seeded outdoors. It also produces delicious squash blossoms that can be eaten as well. It takes about 85 days from germination to harvest, then another 10 days of curing outside or in a warm, dry space.

When buying, look for a squash that is dull and not shiny, which as much green as possible. Make sure it has no soft spots. 

Squash stores really well and will last for month in a cool and dry location. Just like pumpkins, you can save, toast and eat the seeds. Nutritionwise, it is a great source of potassium and dietary fiber. Other preparations for acorn squash include stuffing with wild rice and other ingredients and baking or roasting. If you want to improvise, acorn squash matches well with bacon, brown sugar, butter, maple syrup, nutmeg, Parmesan cheese, pepper and sage.


My experience:  Since this is just a recipe I took from somewhere else, just giving it to you is not very useful. So let me annotate it a bit with my own experiences in making the recipe. The main thing is that microwaving process was a bit uneven. One squash microwaved perfectly according to the directions, but the other took several goes in the microwave before it was ready to scoop. This is perhaps due to different levels of ripeness, or thickness of the squash or just my microwave. It might be better to just go with the roasting method if you have a good oven, because in the end it took the same amount of time. Also, it is no joke about waiting until they are cool enough to handle. These things get really hot.

Other than that, everything went pretty much according to plan. It made two batches in my blender and came out really smooth and creamy. I have a really good blender so I was able to put it in, hit the "soup" button and come out with something nice and silky. If you don't have a really good blender it might take a while to get it smooth enough.

This is irrelevant, but I get really excited to make a recipe that calls for fresh thyme because I can go out and snip it from my herb box, just enough for what I need. It's one of those rare moments when how you wish you would live matches up with reality. Here's a cool tip I learned for fresh thyme:  pinch the top of the sprig between your thumb and first finger and then just zip your fingers down the stem. The leaves will come right off! (If all works as it should, anyway).

RECIPE (from Martha Stewart):

Ingredients: 
  • 2 acorn squashes (3 pounds total)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
Directions: 
  1. Place squashes on a paper towel and microwave on high just until tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the microwave, and halve each squash lengthwise (to speed cooling). When cool enough to handle, scoop out and discard the seeds. Scrape out flesh into a bowl; discard skin. (To prepare in oven, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Halve squash lengthwise; scoop out and discard seeds. Place squash, cut side down, on a rimmed baking sheet; cover tightly with aluminum foil. Roast until almost tender when pierced wtih a knife, 15 to 25 minutes. When cool enough to handle, scrape out flesh, discard skin, and proceed with step 2).
  2. In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium. Add onion; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add squash, thyme, broth, and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to medium, and cook until squash is very tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Working in batches, puree mixture in a blender until very smooth, about 1 minute. Return to pan; add half-and-half, and season generously with salt and pepper. Thin bisque, if needed, by adding more water. Serve garnished with thyme.

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