I cooked Christmas dinner for six this year. On the menu: mustard-seed-crusted prime rib roast with roasted balsamic onions and horseradish/mustard/creme fraiche sauce—terrific!. Thanks, Epicurious; steamed broccoli with lemon and butter; baked yellow potatoes, and, in my opinion, the star of the show, this squash/pepper soup.
Loads of roasted green and red chilies, chipotles and jalapenos combined with butternut squash make a savory bisque topped with a dollop of sour cream, roasted conquistador peppers, and a drizzle of reduced balsamic.
I searched the Web for a recipe, and found several that combined winter squash and peppers. But alas, they were all wimpy. Not enough peppers. Not enough heat or flavor. I had to have a roasted-pepper-heavy dish on the menu because one of our guests recently bestowed upon us a pepper roaster, a hand-cranked unit that blasts the rotating peppers with gas flame. We wanted to demonstrate our gratitude by including a dish dripping with flavor and loaded loaded with roasted peppers.
|PK is roasting Big Jim — New Mexico-type peppers. If only you could smell the pepper perfume!|
So I improvised on a squash bisque I've made several times (including for our fundraising farm dinner in September). Before I get to the recipe, I must mention a couple other items on the holiday table: chipotle sauce and PK's ground pepper flakes—our ever-present condiments.
|From left to right: serrano, cayenne, anza, jalapeno, and up top, Italian hot.|
PK grinds his dried peppers separately then blends them.
We garden together, but the peppers? HIS. His alone.
|This is a block of frozen mostly green roasted chilies weighing about 10 ounces.|
I added it, partially thawed, early in the soup prep.
|Other soup ingredients. Those little black things in the front are chipotles. |
Conquistador peppers are in the bag, serrano sauce in the pint jar, jalapenos in the bowl.
Winter Squash and Chili Peppers Bisque
1 whole butternut or other winter squash - about 3 pounds
1 medium to large onion, minced
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, minced
2-4 jalapeno peppers, seeded, minced
3 T butter
32-48 ounces of chicken or vegetable broth or stock
1 1/2 cups half and half or heavy cream (go for the heavy cream!)
1/4 - 1/2 cup serrano sauce (more about this later)
8-12 ounces of roasted green and/or red chili peppers
6-8 ounces of roasted red chili peppers (may substitute sweet), sliced
2-3 dried chipotle peppers
2 tsp sea or kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1-2 tsp. ground cumin
1 T honey (optional)
Bake the squash whole in advance at 350 for 60-80 minutes, or until a knife inserts easily into the most dense part. Poke with a knife a couple times before baking to prevent a squash-festooned oven. After the squash cools, it's easy to scoop out the seeds, peel it, and break into large pieces. You can refrigerate the cooked squash for a few days before using, or freeze it.
|Early stage of soup prep. Veggies have been sauteed, squash, broth, seasonings and chipotles added,|
but the immersion blender has not been summoned.
Now you have a big decision: to remove the softened chipotles or not? I removed them, but next time I won't. Cooking the chipotle early in the soup prep and removing it before blending adds a whiff of chipotle flavor. Blending chipotles with the other ingredients would pack a more flavorful wallop. I like those wallops. Make sure your chipotles are stemless. It's OK if they have seeds. Need more info about chipotles? (Link includes a recipe for chipotle sauce.)
Now that everything is cooked, grab your immersion blender or a heavy-duty food processor. Immersion blenders are inexpensive and SO much more convenient in this circumstance. Blend ingredients right in the pot and add seasoning to taste. (serrano sauce, salt, etc.)
When you're about ready to serve, stir in the cream, either half and half or heavy cream. You could even add sour cream. Once the cream is added, no more boiling. Place generous amounts of slivered roasted red peppers on top, along with a dollop of sour cream or chipotle sauce, if desired.
This soup is good for a few days refrigerated, and it freezes well for several months.
I'm so fortunate to have all these peppers in my pantry or freezer—and for a couple months, in the garden. If you're not partners with a pepper maniac, you have other options:
|OK. So you don't have him.|
Some options if you lack listed ingredients:
- Roasted whole green chilies: Readily available in most groceries. For this recipe, you'll need 2 or 3 cans, minimum.
- Serrano sauce: If you have access to fresh serrano peppers, consider making your own, or you could use a good quality hot salsa. We live in the sticks, so the concept of purchasing serrano sauce locally is remote. It's likely available in urban areas, and may definitely be purchased online. You may also substitute tabasco-type sauces, but in quiet careful amounts.
- Chiptole peppers: These dried and smoked jalapenos are available at stores that have well-stocked Mexican food departments.
- Jalapenos: I seed and slice jalapenos to freeze as we have multitudes in the garden. I wish we had more! Grocery store jalapenos are green and available year round. They're ok, but red are way better. Remove the seeds, unless you're after big heat. They're usually not very hot sans seeds, but even then, they add deep peppery flavor.
|Canning serrano sauce. Pungent and delicious aromas and months|
of tangy summer-tasting goodness.
This is a terrific soup, which with quesadillas or another Mexican-themed side dish and a green salad, could easily make a company-worthy vegetarian meal. Go for it!