(Guest blogger) The Soupista: Butternut Chowder
My back porch window was iced over this morning in the most delicate and lovely pattern, like tall dandelions in fluffy fields. Fog rolled out from under cars in rows on the freeway, and rose up off of the lake along Lake Shore Drive. How visually pleasing winter can be! I passed the bank’s weather/time display this morning on my way into work, and it said that the temperature was -2. My first thought was not, “What crap!”, but “That can’t be right, it’s not that cold!” How’s that for Chicago indoctrination?
Below, I’m posting a long-overdue Soupista post from Jen. Enjoy! And stay warm!
Some people say that necessity is the mother of invention. Tonight, I think laziness was creation’s matriarch. As in, I was too lazy to visit the store. Which is literally two blocks away.
Not wanting to leave the comfort of my fuzzy ducky socks, I found myself investigating the fridge like an overzealous CSI tech (wearing fuzzy ducky socks), dusting every inch of Gladware for possible dinner suspects.
Unfortunately, the forensic approach to cooking, like so many partial fingerprints, doesn’t always leave you much to go on. My “investigation” turned up: one sort of big butternut squash, two cups of cooked wild rice, and a questionable package of Italian sausage. Oh the possibilities.
Since I like soup anyway (and Kate, my cooking muse, suggested it), I decided to turn these ragtag ingredients into a sort of liquid-based dish that could be eaten with a spoon. Besides the main culprits, I obtained (by totally legal methods) the usual suspects like chicken stock, garlic, onions, canned corn, and—why the hell not—half & half.
As I saw the ingredients lined up on my counter, and after a thorough sausage sniff test, I knew this wasn’t going to be any old soup or stew. It was going to be a chowder. A butternut chowder. I was getting excited to start, but also felt a bit worried that my creation would turn out as something more aptly named “Butt-nut Chowder”, and my roommates just wouldn’t appreciate that.
It was slow going at first. Fumbling around with the ingredients, I felt a bit like Reed Farrington in Cooking with Gerry (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGUybwNhFVU&feature=related). But after a few shakes of spice here and a half cup of cream there, I finally had my answer: Ms. Soupista. In the Kitchen. With the Immersion Blender.
The chowder turned out well. The world was safe again. And with this hearty number, the fuzzy socks were warm as ever.
1 lg. butternut squash
½ head garlic, skin on, tops cut off
4–5 c. chicken stock
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 med. onion, diced
1 1/4 lbs. Italian sausage, cases removed
1 1/2–2 c. cooked rice (wild or otherwise)
1 can sweet corn, drained
Italian seasoning, sage, salt, red pepper, nutmeg
Romano or Asiago cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 375.
In a roasting pan, drizzle peeled and gutted squash with olive oil and whatever spices you want. Pour in about 1 c. of chicken stock. Roast squash and garlic for about 45 minutes or until tender. *I positioned the garlic in the butternut cavity, to try and infuse it with more garlic flavor—it seemed to work well.
While squash is cooking, sweat onions and red pepper in sauce pan. Add sausage and cook until brown. Drain excess fat. Return to heat and add about 1–1 1/2 c. rice to meat mixture, stirring until thoroughly heated.
Cut roasted squash into chunks. Remove skins from garlic cloves. Place both in stock pot with 4 C chicken stock. Blend with immersion blender until smooth. Add meat and corn to squash mixture. Let simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in half & half or heavy cream. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with shredded cheese, if desired.