The Glory of Youth and But­ter­nut Squash Soup

The Labradorian - - EDITORIAL -

Some of the hap­pi­est days of my life were spent learn­ing to cook at Academy Canada. The in­struc­tor was an im­pec­ca­ble chef named BernieAnne Ezekiel and on top of her funny, friendly and up­lift­ing per­son­al­ity she was great in that she in­vested at­ten­tion and time in her stu­dents, do­ing her best to help cul­ti­vate their unique tal­ents in the kitchen... and she her­self too had a knack for find­ing them.

I re­mem­ber first im­press­ing her by bak­ing an Ital­ian ar­ti­san bread known as fo­cac­cia; a de­li­cious bread sim­i­lar in tex­ture to pizza and flavoured with olives and rose­mary. While I didn’t quite en­joy bak­ing at the time — pre­fer­ring in­stead the man­lier cook­ing ap­pli­ca­tions to im­press a girl I had a slight crush on — she in­sisted that I prac­tice with it as much as pos­si­ble, hav­ing a hunch that I would be­come the star baker for the class.

In spite of my mild al­lergy to ac­ti­vat­ing yeast — which I kept se­cret be­cause I was one of those typ­i­cal guys who loved to pre­tend they had no such weak­nesses — I spent a great deal of time prac­tic­ing breads at home.

They were of­ten de­voured by my fam­ily with an­noy­ing en­thu­si­asm once out of the oven but I was never at all sat­is­fied with their end re­sults.

Even­tu­ally, I gave up on the ar­ti­san breads, much to my in­struc­tor’s cha­grin, feel­ing that it was not at all fun to bake any­more. My ex­cuse at the time was that I wasn’t feel­ing chal­lenged enough. Feel free to roll your eyes at that. So Bernie-Ann then sug­gested I prac­tice creat­ing dif­fer­ent kinds of pureed soups.

Soups were never my strong suit. Even now as an ex­pe­ri­enced chef I shy away from creat­ing more rus­tic or tra­di­tional New­found­land soups for the res­tau­rant where I prac­tice my craft, pre­fer­ring to leave them to our older cook, So­phie, who has a tal­ent for them.

Bernie-Anne was a very con­vinc­ing woman though and her con­fi­dence in me gave me the much-needed con­fi­dence in my­self. So I delved into recipes for seafood chow­der, roasted red pep­per puree, potato and leek soup and just about any other unique soup that you’d rarely ever find or even hear about around The Bay.

De­spite hav­ing burned a pot of corn chow­der, burn­ing my fore­arm from wrist to el­bow with spilled French onion soup and wast­ing what I can only as­sume was a small for­tune worth of gro­ceries on fail­ures, I be­gan ex­celling at them.

A few stu­dents in the cafe­te­ria had even be­gun ask­ing if I was the one who had pre­pared the soup for that day, which made me smile from one lit­tle ear to the other.

One puree soup in par­tic­u­lar cap­tured the hearts and taste buds of my fel­low class­mates. Look­ing for a chal­lenge, I re­solved to put a unique spin on the next soup that I’d be in­structed to make that week. As luck would have it, that soup turned out to be what is now my sig­na­ture puree.

Akin to a pump­kin, a but­ter­nut squash re­sem­bles one that has been some­how stretched out and light­ened. Af­ter cut­ting it in half and peel­ing it, sim­i­lar to the way one peels a turnip, one can im­me­di­ately see the gor­geous orange flesh in­side.

When this flesh is roasted or sim­mered it is de­li­cious in and of it­self and goes great as a side dish for any meal. But is ab­so­lutely amaz­ing when made into a pureed soup.

The fol­low­ing is the recipe for a soup that I guar­an­tee you’ll en­joy eat­ing as well as pre­par­ing.

Ba­con But­ter­nut Squash Soup In­gre­di­ents:

1 large but­ter­nut squash

1/4 block of cream cheese

1/3 pack of lean ba­con

1/3 litre of chicken or turkey stock

1 tbsp. of thyme

1 pinch each of salt and pep­per

2 tbsp. brown sugar


Pre­heat your oven to 350 de­grees Cel­sius.

Cut the but­ter­nut squash in half, width­wise and us­ing a sharp knife, peel away the rind. Scoop the in­nards and seeds out of the hol­low part in the cen­tre and dis­card along with the rind. Cut the squash into cubes or chunks roughly 2 inches by 2 inches in di­am­e­ter.

Place the squash in a small roaster and add about 2 cups of broth.

Roast for ap­prox. 20 min­utes or un­til the squash is ten­der all the way through.

Re­move from oven and let stand to cool.

While the squash cools, dice your ba­con into small pieces (bits) and fry in a medium sized pan on medium heat un­til crispy. It’s im­por­tant not to dis­card the ren­dered grease, as this will add sub­stan­tial flavour to the soup later on.

Us­ing a blender, food pro­ces­sor or emer­sion blender, blend your squash with all other in­gre­di­ents (aside from the ba­con) one at a time un­til the mix­ture looks smooth and creamy. It’s best to add the stock last, how­ever, along with the drip­pings from the roaster as you may want to add more or less of it to en­sure the puree isn’t too thin or thick.

The de­sired con­sis­tency is sim­i­lar to that of tomato soup when fin­ished.

Fi­nally, add your ba­con bits to the mix­ture and heat it on medium low in a large saucepan for ap­prox. 10 min­utes or un­til the de­sired tem­per­a­ture has been reached, stir­ring fre­quently.

When the time came to present this soup to BernieAnne I knew that she would im­me­di­ately rec­og­nize the dif­fer­ence in colour from that of the orig­i­nal recipe.

Ev­ery­one in the class usu­ally tried to stick to the recipe as ac­cu­rately as pos­si­ble in or­der to avoid a neg­a­tive re­sult and I was a bit con­cerned about that as well, un­til I tasted it.

I pre­sented Chef with the bowl of ba­con but­ter­nut squash soup gar­nished with a mint leaf and bit the in­side of my bot­tom lip from the ten­sion. She did in­deed first com­ment on the lighter colour of my soup and I told her sheep­ishly that I had added a small amount of cream cheese along with a cou­ple other small changes.

Know­ing that I was ea­ger for her opin­ion and be­ing play­ful as she was, she made a small show of plung­ing her spoon slowly into the bowl and seem­ingly over­an­a­lyz­ing ev­ery small de­tail to build the sus­pense be­fore tak­ing her first mouth­ful. When she tasted it, her eyes lit up and she in­stantly made the sound ev­ery cook loves to hear most. “Mm­m­m­mmm!”

She pro­claimed my cre­ation to be de­li­cious and pol­ished off the en­tire bowl.

It was one of the proud­est and most glo­ri­ous mo­ments for me as a young cook be­cause I had man­aged to turn what was pre­vi­ously a weak­ness into strength and im­pressed a chef whom I deeply ad­mired for her culi­nary prow­ess.

Since then this soup has been my trump card in most restau­rants that I’ve had a bit of creative li­cense in and also my go-to soup for im­press­ing peo­ple that need to be im­pressed, such as the fam­ily of my ex-fi­ancé.

I in­vite you all to try cook­ing this soup for your­selves at home or any other vari­a­tion of but­ter­nut squash soup that you may find on­line or in any cook­books.

In my opin­ion, but­ter­nut squash is very much un­der­used and un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated here in New­found­land and that is a shame. I’ve of­ten used roasted but­ter­nut squash as an ad­di­tion to a turkey jiggs din­ner more than once with amaz­ing re­sults!

But... that sounds like a good topic for an­other ar­ti­cle.

Happy blend­ing!

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