Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thai Red Curry Squash Soup

When faced with pounds and pounds of beautiful organic squash from my CSA, my thoughts immediately turned to soup, and strangely specifically, curried soup with coconut milk. A quick search through Food and Wine recipes revealed that I am certainly not the only one to think of this as a perfect combination and was delighted to fine a recipe from Joanne Chang, owner of Flour Bakery and Cafe and co-owner of Myers + Chang with her husband, Christopher Myers, both in the Boston area. Although I've not been lucky enough to visit Boston and dine at either of her restaurants, I have had great succcess with her recipes in the past and I have immense respect for her diverse skills as a baker, pastry chef, and chef. My opinion of her is also greatly elevated by the fact that in every TV appearance she seems like a truly wonderful person with no ego and is a Harvard graduate who left her career to pursue a passion for cooking, one of those dreams that is constantly swirling around in my head. 

But on to the food! The sweetness of butternut squash is the perfect foil for curry spices, and the coconut milk makes everything irresistably creamy and smooth. I tend to eat a copious amount of soup in the winter, particularly since I started getting my winter CSA and this is nice change of pace from minestrone-type soups and dense stews (though they most certainly have their place, as well). The soup is unmistakably hearty and satisfying, but the Asian spices and ingredients keep the soup light and bright. When the days turn even colder, this soup is a fabulous taste of warm lands far, far away to transport you from the icy winds and dark skies of winter.

Thai Red Curry Squash Soup
serves 12 (as a first course)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger, plus 1 cup slivered fresh ginger
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
3 pounds kabocha, kuri or buttercup squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 2-inch pieces
5 cups water
Two 13 1/2-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
2 lime leaves or 1 teaspoon lime zest
1 large stalk of fresh lemongrass, smashed and cut into 2-inch lengths
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large scallions, thinly sliced

1. In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter. Add the onion and sliced ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 7 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add the squash and water and bring to a boil. Cover partially and simmer over low heat until soft, 25 minutes. Add the coconut milk, lime leaves and lemongrass, cover partially and simmer for 30 minutes longer. Discard the lime leaves and lemongrass.

2. Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender; add it to a clean pot. Stir in the sugar and lime juice and season with salt.

3. In a medium skillet, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the slivered ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown and crisp, 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the ginger to paper towels to drain.

4. Reheat the soup; ladle it into bowls. Garnish with the fried ginger and scallions and serve.

MAKE AHEAD The soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

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