Thursday, January 23, 2014

Brooke Dojny: Polar Vortex Soup

Cooking up something warm is a delicious distraction from negative temperatures and winter storms. In this post, cookbook author and Maine resident Brooke Dojny reflects on one of this harsh season’s kindest offerings: soup.

Photo © Scott Dorrance
One of the very best things about living in New England is the gift of eating with the seasons. During this frigid January, it’s almost impossible to conjure up summer. Just imagine: we stroll out of the house wearing only one layer! I snip bunches of spicy basil leaves in the garden! I load up at the farmers’ market on tiny yellow and green summer squash and heirloom tomatoes and tender lettuces! I steam lobsters and we sit at a newspaper-covered table on the deck to suck out the sweet meat! We grill…everything! Truly, it feels like an alternate universe.

But I have lived in California, and even though winter brings storms of rain, you actually have to work fairly hard to create the sense of a seasonally distinct cuisine—which, here in New England, takes no effort whatsoever. We crave warming, savory soups and stews, and find that stirring a big pot of something while the snow falls—witnessing the alchemy as raw ingredients transform themselves into something tender and unctuous and delicious—is one of life’s more satisfying and gratifying pleasures.

The grill might be iced over and the garden brown and dead, but thankfully more and more farmers’ markets are staying open all year, selling not only a myriad of artisan products (cheeses, maple syrup, baked goods) but also quite a range of storage crops—such vegetables as onions and garlic, carrots, parsnips, celery root, beets, and all manner of winter squashes, including Hubbard and delicata and butternut and kabocha. Use any combination of these thick-skinned beauties to make this smooth, rich, and deeply flavorful Curried Roasted Squash Soup. I’d serve it with a basket of thick-sliced rye toast and a composed salad of winter greens, avocado, and grapefruit drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

Curried Roasted Squash Soup

My husband, Richard, grills meat; he smokes fish and game; he makes a mean tuna sandwich for lunch. But he rarely cooks. Except that every now and then he does get a yen to make soup (it is quite frequently soup weather in Maine), and recently he perfected (occasionally consulting me) this really wonderful puréed curried roasted squash soup. Be sure to allow enough time (upwards of 2 hours) for the vegetables to get very soft and to caramelize.

Makes 4 main-course servings

5 pounds winter squash, such as Hubbard, butternut, or kabocha
6 tablespoons butter
¼ cup packed brown sugar
1 large onion, cut into chunks
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch lengths
4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into quarters
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 7 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 cups apple cider or apple juice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground mace
½ cup plain yogurt or sour cream

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Cut the squash into large chunks and scoop out the seeds. Place cut sides up in a large roasting pan and divide the butter and brown sugar among the cavities.
  3. Arrange the onion, carrots, garlic, and apple around the squash, sprinkle with the salt and pepper to taste, and pour 2 cups of the broth in the bottom of the pan. (You may need to use two roasters.) Cover with foil and roast, stirring once or twice, until the vegetables are all very soft and caramelized, 1½ to 2 hours.
  4. Scoop the squash pulp out of the skins. Squeeze the garlic out of its skins. Process the squash and other vegetables in a food processor in batches, adding a bit of the broth through the feed tube, to make a smooth purée.
  5. Toast the curry powder in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until it is one shade darker, about 2 minutes.
  6. Combine the squash purée, toasted curry powder, remaining broth, apple cider, ginger, and mace in a large soup pot, whisking together until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes to blend the flavors. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. (The soup can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)
  7. Reheat before serving. Ladle into bowls and top with a dollop of yogurt.

Recipe excerpted from Dishing Up® Maine © 2006 by Brooke Dojny. Photo © Scott Dorrance. All rights reserved.  

Brooke Dojny is the author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, including The New England Clam Shack Cookbook, Dishing Up® Maine, and Lobster! (all Storey Publishing). She won the James Beard Award in 1997 for The AMA Family Cookbook, co-authored with Melanie Barnard.  Brooke started her culinary career in the 1980s when she worked as a catering directress for Martha Stewart. From 1990 to 2004, Brooke co-authored (with Melanie Barnard) Bon Appetit’s monthly “Every-Night Cooking” column. She has written for most of the other major culinary magazines and has been a regular contributor to Down East Magazine. She lives on the coast of Maine, where she can be found hanging out at clam shacks and farmers’ markets. Her next book for Storey is Chowderland, to be published in 2015.

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Want more from Dishing Up® Maine? Find these delicious recipes on our blog:

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