Cooking at his Manhattan restaurants—Michelin-starred Dovetail and the newer Narcissa—chef John Fraser has proven himself a tenth-level produce wizard, able to coax incredible flavors and textures from veggies of all stripes. With a winter kitchen staple ingredient like butternut squash, Fraser capitalizes on its versatility, roasting and charring it to caramelize and emphasize its natural sugars, blending it into satiny purees, and even "curing" thin raw strips with a little sugar and salt to serve with fish crudo. "You can prepare it so many different ways," Fraser says, "and its ability to be played with gives it strength."
With this homey squash soup, he takes a vegetarian tack, doubling down on the butternut flavor by making squash stock from peels and cuttings. This also lets the soup deliver clean butternut taste, uncompromised by chicken or mixed vegetable stock. It's also a nifty lesson in veggie cooking: Don't scrap the scraps—extract their flavors.
At Dovetail, Fraser garnishes the soup with house-made marshmallows seasoned with curry-like vadouvan spice. Here, he suggests fresh cilantro and pomegranate arils for ease and convenience. "Squash loves to be paired with seeds," he says. Try Fraser's original soup in January at Dovetail on Manhattan's Upper West Side.
WARM-SPICED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUPHands-on: 20 min. Total: 2 hr. 15 min.Earthy, fragrant spices like allspice, cloves, and cinnamon make wonderful accents for the natural sweetness of butternut squash. Make sure to simmer the squash until very tender—the softer it gets, the silkier the puree.
4 pounds whole butternut squash¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided7 cups water½ teaspoon whole allspice½ teaspoon black peppercorns6 thyme sprigs3 whole cloves1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick1 star anise pod1 yellow onion, chopped1½ teaspoons kosher salt1 tablespoon cider vinegar1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper½ cup pomegranate arils¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Peel and seed squash, reserving peels, trimmings, and seeds. Cube peeled and seeded squash. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add squash scraps; sauté 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Add 7 cups water, allspice, and next 5 ingredients (through anise). Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Strain mixture into a large bowl; discard solids.
2. Wipe pan clean with paper towels; heat over medium heat. Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil and onion; cover and cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cubed squash; cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add reserved broth and salt; bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 40 minutes or until squash is very tender.
3. Place half of squash mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining squash mixture. Stir in vinegar and red pepper. Ladle soup into shallow bowls. Top evenly with pomegranate and cilantro.
SERVES 10 (serving size: about 11/3 cups, about 2 teaspoons pomegranate arils, and about 1 teaspoon cilantro)CALORIES 125; FAT 5.6g (sat 0.8g, mono 4g, poly 0.6g); PROTEIN 2g; CARB 20g; FIBER 3g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 1mg; SODIUM 294mg; CALC 71mg