I've been making the same basic butternut squash soup for years, adding twists and tweaks as I see fit, and it never fails to satisfy me when a chill enters the air. It's smooth and creamy, the way I think squash soup should be, and it's the perfect thing to whip up over the weekend to have in your fridge all week long. This version relies on sherry for depth and a little intrigue -- if you don't have sherry on hand, you can skip it, or just substitute with brandy (Madeira would be nice) if you have some lying around. —Merrill Stubbs
4 to 6
large leek, white and light green part only, chopped (about 1 cup)
Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the leek and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until softened—this should take about 5 minutes (if leek starts to brown, add a tablespoon or so of water).
Add the squash, nutmeg, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon salt and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the sherry and cook for a couple of minutes to reduce, then add enough chicken stock just to cover the squash (if you have added all of the stock and still need more liquid, add some water).
Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
Using a blender or a food processor, blend the soup with the milk in several batches, adding more liquid if necessary.
Return to the pot and heat until just simmering. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in another splash of sherry and the cream just before serving, adding a drizzle of cream to garnish each bowl if you like.