The Thanksgiving frenzy is upon us. This year, I’ll be partaking in Thanksgiving dinner in a yet-to-be-determined restaurant in the Boston area. (Risky, I know, but I like to live on the culinary edge.) Just because I won’t be slaving away in the kitchen doesn’t mean I haven’t thought about Thanksgiving-y foods and made up my own perfect menu in my head.
It seems like all Thanksgiving dinners are so sternly rooted in family tradition that it’s hard to change anything about the annual menu, including the side dishes. That’s why I like to come up with new appetizers and soup courses. An unexpected beginning keeps the meal new and fresh, while still allowing every at the table to enjoy old favorites.
This butternut squash soup fits into even the most traditional dinners, and the best part is you can make it a couple of days ahead, saving precious prep time on the big day.
Make-Ahead Butternut Squash Soup with Parmesan-Reggiano Croutons
For the soup (serves 8)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 14.5-ounce cans low sodium chicken broth (you can substitute vegetable stock if you like)
8 cups peeled butternut squash, cubed into 1-inch pieces (about two squash, weighing around 1.5 pounds each)
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons sugar
For the croutons (this is optional and needs to be made right before serving):
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
16 baguette slices, about 1/4 inch thick
1 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
Make the soup: Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about ten minutes. Add the broth, all the squash and herbs. Add a couple dashes of kosher salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until the squash is tender, about 25 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup (you can also work in batches and use a regular blender). Return soup to the same pot. Stir in the cream and sugar and bring to a simmer. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed. (Can be made two days ahead. Chill and rewarm over medium heat before serving. You can add more chicken stock if it gets too thick.)
Make the croutons: Butter one side of each bread slice. Arrange bread, buttered side up on a baking sheet. Broil until golden, about 1 minute. Turn over. Sprinkle liberally with cheese, thyme and sage. Broil until cheese melts, about 1 minute. Ladle soup into bowls and top each with croutons. Enjoy, but save room for everything else!