The key to making a flavourful, tender butternut squash soup

By America’S Test Kitchen The Associated Press

This simple butternut squash soup is little more than squash, cooking liquid, and a few aromatic ingredients; it comes together easily yet is creamy and deeply flavourful.
Many squash soups fail to live up to their potential, often ending up too sweet or with too little squash flavour. We got the most flavour out of our squash by sauteing a shallot in butter with the reserved squash seeds and fibers, simmering the mixture in water, and then using the flavourful liquid to steam the unpeeled squash. This method gave us doubly flavourful, tender squash with the added bonus of avoiding the difficult task of peeling raw squash.
To complete our soup, we scooped out the cooked squash from its skin and then pureed it with some of the strained steaming liquid for a perfectly smooth texture. Some heavy cream added richness, and a little brown sugar and nutmeg balanced the squash’s earthy flavour.
Servings: 4-6
Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large shallot, chopped
3 pounds butternut squash, quartered and seeded, with fibers and seeds reserved
6 cups water
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
Pinch ground nutmeg
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in squash seeds and fibers and cook until butter turns orange, about 4 minutes.
Stir in water and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer, place squash cut side down in steamer basket, and lower basket into pot. Cover and steam squash until completely tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
Using tongs, transfer cooked squash to rimmed baking sheet. Let squash cool slightly, then scrape cooked squash from skin using soup spoon; discard skin.
Strain cooking liquid through fine-mesh strainer into large liquid measuring cup. Working in batches, puree cooked squash with 3 cups strained cooking liquid in blender until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Return pureed soup to clean pot and stir in cream, sugar, nutmeg, and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Return to brief simmer, adding additional strained cooking liquid as needed to adjust consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Classic Croutons:Makes 3 cups
6 slices hearty white sandwich bread, crusts removed, cut into 1?2-inch cubes (3 cups)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 F. Toss bread with melted butter, season with salt and pepper, and spread onto rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes, stirring halfway through baking. Let cool and serve. (Croutons can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.)