Squash soups are the perfect vegetable soup – filled with fiber and a touch of sweetness, the bowl just disappears. Pumpkins and squashes are now very available in France at the winter markets, and these american ingredients are becoming very popular there. This French style butternut squash soup with a touch of curry, enriched with a touch of butter and finished with creme fraiche is my latest obsession, my winter therapy, bringing golden warmth to gray winter days.
Most of everything I know about cooking, I learned from my mother. She started me cutting baguettes, paying me in crusty ends, and eventually promoted me to vinaigrette duty. I hated salads with a passion, a worthless course fit only for cows, but I was happy to be part of her team, contributing a little to the amazing meals she put on the table night after night.
Later, when I studied cooking more formally at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York, all her lessons were validated, and I wasn’t surprised. My mom was a master chef, gifted with that magic to know just what final pinch each dish was missing to transport it from the mundane to the extraordinary.
For the last few months, I’ve been going back and forth to my mom’s house in the Loire Valley, helping her and her husband as she begins another battle with cancer. They live far, far away from Paris, down windy country roads dotted with royal colored pheasants and the occasional burnt caramel fox. Their home is filled with animals, two labs, one black, one yellow, a black and white cat, thickets of swallows, and even an aging palomino quarter horse. All these animals are well fed and happy, the apple of my mother’s eye. But her gleaming copper pots are not getting used much nowadays, something I try to remedy as much as I can when I’m there.
It’s hard to fill the void of a world class cook. Hard to fill my mom’s shoes. But thanks to her suggestions and the power of French ingredients, I cook for her and her husband, trying to help as much as I can, in this difficult time.
When I return home, jet lagged and emotionally drained, my kids are waiting, missing their mom. So I cook for them too, inspired by the flavors of France, my cooking here alters for the better, mirroring what I made for my mom and her husband just a few days earlier, bridging the distance with the smells and flavors of France.
This French style butternut squash soup is one of these bridging recipes. Simple ingredients, but powerful flavor. Butter, squash, shallots, a touch of curry, a wild drizzle of salt and pepper, and of course, a heaping spoonful of creme fraiche. It’s simple, but so good, exactly my mother’s type of cooking, soup therapy in a bowl, guaranteed to feed not only your belly, but also your soul with every bite.
- 1 butternut squash, skin removed and cut into 2 inch chunks
- 2 shallots, peeled and minced
- 2 cups of water
- 2 tablespoons of salted butter
- 1 teaspoon of curry powder
- ½ teaspoon of cinnamon
- generous pinches of salt and fresh ground pepper to your liking
- heaping soup spoon full of creme fraiche
- Peel and dice your shallots.
- Remove the skin from the squash and cut into coarse 2 inch chunks.
- Melt the butter in a dutch oven. Add the shallots. Saute on medium low heat for 5 minutes until soft.
- Add the squash pieces, the curry and cinnamon. Stir with a wooden spoon to coat with the butter and shallots.
- Pour in the water. Stir again. Cover and cook for 45 minutes, until the squash is soft when pressed with a fork.
- Puree with a hand blender. Add the creme fraiche. Puree a little more. Serve warm.
- My mom loves to serve this with a mild blue cheese called Fourme d'Ambert. It's delicious but impossible to find here in the states.