If you are in the mood for an everyday, at-home, mug-n-spoon squash experience, I found a recipe that is fun to read. (HaHaHa. See previous post about my obsession with reading recipes.)
The subtle hint of vanilla will boost the squash and pear to the fore with a hint of sweetness from the cider.
Butternut Squash Soup with Pear, Cider, and Vanilla Bean
3 Tbs olive oil
1 2-lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces (4 generous cups)
2 firm-ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup apple cider
4 cups good-quality chicken broth
½ tsp salt
½ cup half-and-half
1 vanilla bean, about 7 inches long
Fresh chives, finely chopped, for garnish
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or small stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the squash, pears, and onion, stir to coat with oil, and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, 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 the squash is tender.
Working in batches, carefully puree the mixture in a food processor or blender. Return the soup to the pot, and season it with salt. Continue to cook the soup over medium-low heat, uncovered, until it has reduced to about ½ to 1/3 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. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise into two long strips. Using the back of your knife, scrape the tiny black seeds out of the bean. Scoop the seeds and the bean halves into the pan with the half-and-half, and put the pan over low heat. Warm the half-and-half until it is steaming, but not boiling. Remove it from the heat, remove and discard the vanilla bean halves, and whisk to break up any clumps of seeds in the half-and-half. Set aside.
When the soup has reduced to its desired thickness, stir in the half-and-half, taking care to not leave any little black seeds behind in the saucepan. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve, garnished with chives.
Yield: 4-5 servings