Squash Soup with Vanilla Crème Fraiche

Our host for November was Meg of Joy Through Cooking. (The pictures through out this post are from Kavs of The Girl Next Kitchen, Temperance of http://hoghigh.blogspot.com/ and Maybelle's Mom of Feeding Maybelle.) Here is Meg's post.

When I saw our fabulous hosts were looking for a soup recipe for November I JUMPED at the chance. You see… I love soup. Creamy or clear… warm and cozy this time of year it just warms you from the inside out. I have a few different soup cookbooks and have had fun experimenting over the last few years.

Temperance and Lori encourage hosts to choose something new to us, as well. Then I remembered… there WAS a recipe that I had been wanting to try. It was challenging, and had a twist but was still safe with lovely flavors.

You see, we love watching Bravo! Reality shows. For our members abroad, this channel has some skill-based reality shows… a fashion designer show, a hairdressing show, and… a cooking show. Top Chef. In my humble opinion, the best of the bunch (new season starts next week!). In the last season set in Chicago there was a challenge set at Second City Comedy Club where the audience threw out theme words that the chefs were to use as inspiration for their challenge dish. Each team had a color, a food or flavor, and an emotion. One team, the team that eventually won the challenge had the words: Yellow, Vanilla, Love.

They made a soup. A squash bisque with a dollop of vanilla crème fraiche. And they put love in it as they layered flavors, tasted, and perfected it. To me, a rich warm thick soup is all about love… it is a dish that just loves you right back!

So this is the Challenge: Squash Soup with Vanilla Crème Fraiche

Main “requirements” for this soup: Make your own stock. You can use the recipe given or play with the flavors. The given stock is a vegetable one. If you want to go with a chicken stock you are welcome to, but it must be homemade. This part can be done ahead.

Incorporate a creamy vanilla element. You can use whipping cream if crème fraiche is cost-prohibitive. For those with allergies/food restrictions of course please substitute as needed but for those who do not have those restrictions, please incorporate a creamy vanilla garnish.

For the soup it should be a squash soup. I used a mix of Butternut, buttercup, and acorn squash but you can use your favorites (or what is available). You can pre-cook the squash as well.

Beyond that, please use your creativity. As we know, much of cooking is about feel and taste. So taste your soup as you are cooking it, often. Taste your stock. Adjust your seasonings as you see fit. I really enjoyed the flavor the miso brought to the soup – it was something a little different, but you can play with herbs, spices, fruit, etc that you think will be right for you. The more you cook, taste, season, cook, taste, season… the more layered your flavors will become. Whatever you choose to do, please cook your soup with LOVE.

The recipe given is huge. It would serve more than 8, easily. Go with the full recipe if you plan to serve this for your holiday dinner. I cut it in half and had a ton or leftovers still.

Suggestion: make more stock than the recipe calls for. You will want the flexibility to keep adding to the soup to achieve desired consistency. And you can certainly use any extra stock in your cooking.

Also, I highly recommend making the stock and cooking the squash ahead (and stick in the fridge). Then making the mirepoix and pulling the soup together will be much quicker… and since you do not want to rush soup, this is a good thing.

The recipe called to cheesecloth straining. You can do that, or use an immersion blender, or whatever other tools you may have on hand.

Squash Soup with Vanilla Creme Fraiche
Please see the original inspiration here.
Prep Time: one hour and 30 minutes
Serves: more than 8 (I estimate about 20)
Spike & Andrew's recipe:

3 sliced leek bottoms (rinsed)
4 carrots (peeled and sliced)
10 shallots (peeled and sliced)
1 clove garlic
1/2 lb butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup miso stir
Salt and pepper

5 acorn
5 butternut
Oil for rubbing
Sage leaves
Salt and pepper

Vegetable Stock:
4 quarts water
2 white onions
4 carrots, peeled
2 leeks
6-8 button mushrooms
Bouquet garnish (parsley, bay leaves, peppercorns)

Vanilla Creme Fraiche:
Creme fraiche
2 vanilla beans

Additional Ingredients:
Salt to taste
Cayenne to taste

Sweat all of the vegetables with butter. Sweat down and deglaze with honey. Stir and add miso. Season with salt and pepper.
Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds and reserve one butternut head for garnish. Rub squash with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place one piece of sage under every piece of squash. Place squash face down on a sheet tray and roast at 350 degrees until done. Scoop flesh out and pass through a ricer.
Vegetable Stock:
In a pot, boil all ingredients together with the exception of the bouquet garnishes. (NOTE:allow to simmer for at least 1 hour)
Vanilla Creme Fraiche:
Whip creme fraiche and scrape vanilla beans and fold in.
Combine squash and vegetable stock to desired consistency. Add mirepoix and cook. Blend with a vita prep and strain through a chinois. Season with salt and cayenne.
To Plate:
Add 6 ounces of soup in bowl and spoon in creme fraiche. Garnish with bouquet garnishes.

Quotes From the Forum:
Oh my gosh was this yummy!! I loved what the vanilla creme fraiche did for this dish! It was so fragrant, so flowery- it reminded me that vanilla comes from an orchid.
Lauren of I'll Eat You

The soup is awesome, and I have to say it gets even better every day.
Kathrine of South Bronx Foodie

Oh my! Just made the soup tonite everyone said it was amazing. This was a fantastic pick. I never would have put miso with squash but it was ABSOLUTELY delicious.
Lori of Lori's Lipsmacking Goodness