Despite my complete reluctance to participate in anything that requires me to put on my winter jacket, I’m crazy busy. If you remember, last summer I created a completely new menu for Billy’s Seafood Company. It was a huge undertaking, given their prominence in the city’s food scene and the self-anointed ownership of Billy’s loyal following. I felt huge resistance from the regular customers who liked the menu exactly as it was. One of Billy’s most redeeming qualities is his boundless customer service. It’s nothing for him to turn the entire kitchen upside down because of the tiniest of requests. Which is outstanding for his guests, but challenging for the girl hired to change the menu!
After a few adjustments [thank you Harry] the summer menu was a hit to locals and tourists. With the busy Christmas season behind him, Billy hired me again to create a new winter menu. The menu is finished and ready to implement. Sunday the kitchen will present each new dish to the front of house staff. Next Thursday, Billy will launch his winter menu to fourty guests. Between now and then, I’ll be cooking my butt off!
Whenever I’m launching a new menu, I like to have meals prepared ahead for Ralph. I never want him to feel like the cobbler’s husband! My Butternut Squash and Hard Cider soup is brain-dead easy to make yet tastes like you’ve been in the kitchen for hours. It helps if you have homemade chicken stock in the freezer, but if not a good commercial soup stock will work deliciously. In the spirit of full disclosure, because I’m stressed for time, I used frozen peeled and chopped butternut squash. The price was comparable with a fresh squash and it saved me precious minutes.
If you’ve never tasted Hard Cider, you’re in for a treat. It’s an alcoholic beverage made from fermented apple juice. My favourite is made from honeycrisp apples. It’s bubbly, light and tastes like your biting into a fresh apple.
Butternut Squash and Hard Cider Soup
- 2 lbs frozen butternut squash peeled, seeded, and chopped available at most grocery stores. You can also use fresh!
- 1 can [473 ml] apple cider – I used Growers HoneyCrisp Apple Premium Cider
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Pomegranate seeds for garnish (optional)
- roasted pepitas for garnish (optional)
- Melt the butter with the olive oil in a medium stock pot over medium-low heat. Use a heavy bottomed pot so that you can safely cook your onion without burning it.
- Add the onion and garlic, and sweat until translucent, about five minutes.
- Add the cider and thyme, increase the heat to high and boil until the alcohol cooks off and the cider is reduced by three quarters. When the apple cider hits the hot stock pot it will foam up and then calm down while it reduces. The onions will look creamy and thick when it’s time to add the squash.
- Add the squash, salt and pepper to the stock pot with the aromatics.
- Add the chicken stock, bring to a low simmer and cook about ten minutes to meld the flavors. If you’re using fresh squash, boil until fork tender.
- Using an immersion blender, puree the soup.
- Taste and adjust the seasonings. It will depend on whether you used a commercial or homemade chicken stock.
- Serve your soup topped with pomegranate seeds and roasted pepitas.
THE LOVE: This soup can easily be vegetarian/vegan by using a vegetable stock instead of chicken.
Thanks for reading.