Autumn Soup: Winter Squash, Chestnut and (Wild) Mushroom
Must say I do love a soup that tastes rich and creamy without being heavy – or containing cream. Also nice if it doesn’t require an arsenal of seasonings and is easy and quick to make.
The quick part does assume the squash is already baked, and that you know speedy ways to peel chestnuts, but why not? *
As usual, the ingredient list is pretty much the whole recipe, but given that the beauty shot of the main ingredients promised something a bit more extensive, here’s a rough outline, based on the most recent iteration.
“Rough” and “most recent” are definitely the words for it; this is one of those home style soups that’s infinitely variable.
In other words, almost impossible to screw up.
If we’ve eaten most of the squash, I just use more mushroom and chestnut. When I have the help of chestnut peelers, I shamelessly take advantage. Don’t have these particular mushrooms ? No problem, there are plenty of alternatives.
That’s “alternative,” as in “it’ll be good, but in a different way.” Recipes that call simply for wild mushrooms or mixed wild mushrooms drive me nuts.
As though there were no differences! Granted, all of them taste like mushrooms, but anyone who thinks Boletus edulis and Cantharellus cibarius can be interchanged willy-nilly
should have their head examined simply isn’t paying attention.
I am tempted to rant at length. Instead will just mildly point out that this soup can be made with almost any pair of mushrooms, wild or domestic, but one of them should be an intensely flavored low moisture variety like hen of the woods or shiitake and the other should be a firm, meaty but tender variety like lactarius or cremini.
as measured out in midcoast Maine in Late October 2011
3 tbl. butter
3.5 oz. Lactarius thyinos, cut into half-inch chunks
A large onion in roughly 1/3 inch dice
5 oz Grifola frondosa coarsely chopped
12 chestnuts, roasted, peeled, and coarsely chopped
5 c. light chicken stock
6 oz. baked winter squash, roughly cut into walnut sized chunks
4 good sized springs of fresh thyme – enough to add a hint but not a shout
3 scrapings of nutmeg
1. Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the lactarius chunks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are lightly browned and completely cooked through. Remove and set aside.
2. Add the onion, cook until golden, then add the frondosus. Keep cooking and stirring until the vegetables are brown and there is no free liquid in the pan. Stir in the chestnuts, add the broth, cover, and simmer over very low heat until everything is falling-apart soft, about an hour, maybe more.
3. Stir in the squash and seasonings, cover and cook until the squash is more or less dissolved, about 20 minutes.
4. Fish out the thyme and puree the soup. Depending on the toughness of the mushrooms, it will come out somewhere between fine applesauce and French Restaurant. This batch was the former and perfectly tasty, but I did put it thorough a strainer to achieve F.R. for its portrait.
5. Reheat, salt to taste and portion out, topping each bowl with a sprinkle of the reserved lactarius. An herb garnish doesn’t help, tastewise, so I resisted the temptation to pretty it up with something green. If you feel you must, a sprig of chervil wouldn’t do much harm.
BAKED WINTER SQUASH
Is more flavorful and less watery than squash that has been boiled, steamed or microwaved. All the same like baked potatoes, including stabbing here and there to prevent explosions. Unlike potatoes, squash leaks sweet juice, so you do have to put it on a pan. At 375 degrees, it’ll take anywhere from one hour to two, depending on the squash variety, size and age. (They cook more quickly after they’ve been stored for a while.)
That’s my preferred method, but when I’m in a hurry I halve the squash, remove the seeds, rub the cut surfaces with olive oil and roast the halves face down. Seed removal is a bit more of a chore, but you do get those delicious caramelized cut surfaces.
* Frozen partially cooked peeled chestnuts are quite tasty and an enormous time-saver, as I learned some years ago when a chef friend sent me some. Being as they’re not a money saver (unless you’re a chef with labor costs) and are not sold at any stores nearby, I have never bought any. But they are available retail, from Chestnut Growers Inc., a Michigan farmer’s co-op, among others. If you decide to go for it, please come back and let us all know how it worked out.