This soup is perfect in every way you hope a Fall soup will be. It is oh so easy to make (like, actually easy), and quite economical too. If you make it a day ahead, it will only taste better upon reheating. It freezes beautifully. (Make a double batch to tuck into the freezer for some other night.) The squash, apple, and parsnip balance together famously, resulting in flavor that's a little sweet, a little sharp, and incredibly rich in flavor. The only bad part about this soup is peeling the butternut squash. I abhor peeling butternut squash. Alas, we can’t have everything in life.
If you can’t find smoked duck, you are welcome to simply cook up a regular duck breast; serve it alongside the soup, or sliver a few pieces on top, and save the rest for sandwiches. You can substitute apple cider vinegar, or any other fruity, winey vinegar for the Pineau variety. Without the duck, this is a vegetarian soup. Omit the butter too, if you are vegan or dairy-free. —Cristina Sciarra
2 big bowls
1 small white onion
1 small butternut squash
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
3 cups vegetable stock, divided
1 sprig of thyme
1 tablespoon Pineau vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
t is easiest to prepare the fruit and vegetables before you get started on the soup: Mince the onion. Peel and roughly chop the parsnip and the apple. Peel the butternut squash; I know it’s terrible annoying. Cut the squash in half, spoon out the seeds, and then roughly chop the squash.
Now warm the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a medium-sized soup pot, over medium heat. Wait until the butter is gently foaming, and then add the onion; sweat until translucent. Add the parsnip, the apple, and the squash. Give everything a good stir. Add 1 cup of the vegetable stock and the thyme sprig, and the put the lid on the soup pot.
Leave the fruit and vegetables alone to soften for 20 minutes. You are looking for squash soft enough to be easily squished with a fork. When everything is almost mushy, add the remainder of the stock, and let it come to a simmer. Remove the thyme sprig.
It’s time to puree the soup. I use an emersion blender, but feel free to use a regular blender as well. (Or, if you like chunky soup, just mash it with a large fork or potato masher.) You can also run the soup through a sieve, if you want it super velvety, but I don’t find this step necessary.
Adjust the seasoning: stir in the tablespoon of vinegar, as well as the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Add salt and pepper, to taste.
On to the duck breast. It’s not a terrible idea to let it sizzle away in a pan for a few minutes, skin side down, just to make the fat a bit crispy. Now slice the breast thinly, and divide it amongst the soup bowls.
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at theroamingkitchen.com.