Yields 6 to 7 cups. Serves 6 to 8 people and if being used as an appetizer or first course, simply serve smaller portions to accommodate more people.
2 T olive oil
1 ½ lbs butternut squash. About 5 C peeled and seeded, cut into 1 inch chunks.
1 large onion, cut into large dice
1 T butter
1 large pinch sugar
3 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced
3 C chicken stock or broth, homemade or from a carton
1 to 1 ½ cups half-and-half
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Garnish: sour cream, pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and/or a sprinkle of fresh herbs such as parsley.
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep sauté pan until shimmering.
Add squash, then onion. Sauté, stirring very little at first, then more frequently, until veggies start to turn golden brown, approximately 7 to 8 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and add butter, sugar and garlic. Continue cooking until all veggies are a rich spotty caramel color, about 10 minutes longer.
Add spices. Continue to sauté until fragrant, approximately another 30 to 60 seconds.
Add broth and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until veggies are tender, about 10 minutes.
Using an immersion blender (easiest) or a traditional blender, puree until very smooth, about 1 minute. An immersion blender can be used in the deep sauté pan or if you prefer, transfer soup to a soup pot and complete this process there.
Note: If using a traditional blender, blend no more than two cups at one time. Vent the blender either by removing the lid’s pop-out center or by lifting one edge of the lid. Drape the blender canister with a kitchen towel while blending to avoid any potential mess. To “clean” the canister, pour in a little half-and-half, blend briefly, then add to the soup.
Return soup to sauté pan or soup pot. Add enough half-and-half so the mixture is soup-like, yet thick enough to float garnish. Taste. Add salt and pepper if needed.
Heat through on a low to medium heat. Do not bring to a boil! Ladle into bowls. For a more casual atmosphere, mugs work very nicely. Garnish and serve.