The Squash Soup Throwdown!

After climbing into my car the other night after a meeting I checked my phone for messages. There was just one message; I received a voice mail from a friend asking me over for for dinner. She had cooked up a nice squash soup and wanted to share. Unfortunately, I had eaten dinner before the meeting and I had too had cooked up squash soup that very day. So, when I called her back she said, “then how about a squash soup throwdown lunch”. Great idea, I said, I’ll be there. For those of you not familiar with the phrase “throwdown” it comes from the cooking show Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, in which celebrity chef Bobby Flay challenges cooks renowned for a specific dish or type of cooking to a cook-off of their signature dish. In this case my friend, Tammi, was challenging me to bring my soup and compare it with the one she had made. I love a challenge and I love Tammi’s cooking. The throwdown was on.

The day of the throwdown arrived. I packed up my soup, the premixed dry ingredients for the Cheddar Scallion Drop Biscuits and some buttermilk and headed out into the drizzle, and over to Tammi’s place. As soon as she opened the door I could smell the wonderful scent of her soup and the cornbread she was baking. She poured us a glass of a very nice White Riesling. We toasted and then I busied myself heating up my soup, adding the buttermilk to the biscuit dry mix and dropping spoonfuls of the batter onto the baking sheet. Tammi’s cornbread was ready so we pulled it out of the oven then popped my biscuits in. Then we waited.

The soup I brought was from the Squash Bisque recipe I highlighted on a previous post. A creamy mixture of acorn squash, onion, carrots and potatoes simmered in chicken broth, then blended with some half and half. I also brought along some Cajun Style Andouille sausage that I diced and placed in the bottom of our soup bowls. The soup would be hot enough to heat the sausage eliminating the need to dirty up another pan. The Cheddar Scallion Drop Biscuits are from an Epicurious recipe I recently found that I wanted to try. I halved the recipe, but doubled the cheese and scallions on the advice of several readers’ comments. These little gems were the perfect accompaniment to my soup. They were crisp on the outside and moist and flavorful on the inside. The only thing I would change next time would be to use an extra sharp cheddar cheese instead of just sharp. They might also taste great substituting chopped green chilies for the scallions.

Tammi’s soup was a thick, earthy combination of roasted ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­butternut squash, sweet potato, apple, onion and garlic all spiced up with a little curry and Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, all simmered to perfection in coconut milk, sherry and chicken stock. When it was all tender it was blended. It was marvelous, as was the cornbread that was made with blue corn meal. I had just been reading the January issue of Sunset Magazine the day before and remembered reading an article that listed blue corn as one of the Top 10 Feel Good Foods. The article said that blue corn contains protein, iron and zinc in higher ratios than white corn and the corn’s blue anthocyanin is an antioxidant. After eating Tammi’s blue cornbread I would certainly agree that it was definitely a delicious, feel good food.

The throwdown was over.  Winner? I would like to think there were two very happy tummies at the competition that day and that they were both winners. And so I headed back to my place with a container of Tammi’s soup, some cornbread and the rest of my leftovers. Yesterday I mixed Tammi’s leftover soup with my own and feasted on the most marvelous soup I have had in a while. Sometimes teamwork is the best solution.  The leftover cornbread and biscuits weren’t bad either.

Pick up some winter squash this weekend at the Farmers’ Market then call a friend and throwdown a challenge. It’s great fun.

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Winter Squash; The perfect Thanksgiving soup.

Squash Bisque

This is, by far, one of my favorite soups and one I often make for Thanksgiving. I thought you would get a kick out of the fact that it’s still on it’s

original typewritten, (yes with a typewriter) 3 x 5 recipe card. There are even some if my handwritten notes on it. There’s something very comforting about recipes that have stood the test of time.

Squash Bisque

3 tablespoon butter

1 cup minced onion

¼ cup minced carrot

salt and white pepper

2 Russet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 Delicata squash, peeled and diced

4 cups chicken stock or broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

cayenne pepper

In a saucepan melt butter. Add the onion and carrot and sprinkle the vegetables lightly with salt and white pepper. Cover the pan with a sheet of buttered wax paper and the lid and cook the vegetables for about 10 minutes, or until they are tender. Add the potatoes and squashes, both peeled and cubed, and the chicken stock or broth and simmer, covered, over low heat for about 25 minutes until the potatoes and squash are very tender. Force the mixture through a sieve. Return it to the pan and add the cream and milk. Cook the soup until it is heated through. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Pour the bisque into a tureen and serve it in heated cups, sprinkling each serving with a bit of cayenne, if desired. I highly recommend the cayenne but, be careful not to use too much! A sprinkle looks beautiful and isn’t overbearing.

Serves 8

Note: If you want to make it ahead of time, make the soup through the part where you mash the vegetable mixture. Cover and store in the refrigerator. When you are ready to finish, warm the vegetable mixture (the microwave is great for this), return the mixture to the stove, add the cream and milk and cook until the soup is heated through.

Pick up these ingredients at your local Farmers Market:

• 2 Delicata squash

• 1 yellow onion

• carrots