Ok, we’re going to get into some cooking fun tonight. This recipe is my family’s “fall kickoff” favorite. Some dishes require improvisation. They just can’t be captured on paper. You have to sort of feel it. I’m going to share with you the basics of how to make a beautiful, velvety, nutritious, eats-like-a-meal soup. But I don’t have a recipe.

Still there?

The reason recipes don’t work for this soup is that butternut squash are not all created equal. So if I tell you to use two squash, the consistency of your soup could be different than mine. But guess what? You can make this whatever consistency you like. Because you’re the cook. See there?

Let’s start like this:
2-3 butternut squash
2-3 large shallots, finely chopped
3-4 Tb butter to roast the squash
2 Tb butter to saute the shallots
fresh thyme
fresh sage (could substitute dried if necessary)
2 or 3 14 oz cans of chicken stock
heavy cream
white pepper
freshly ground black pepper
garlic salt
sea or kosher salt

1. Roast the squash
You’ll need a large, sharp knife to split the squash in half lengthwise. This part is Michael’s job. Next, scoop out the seeds with a large spoon, and place the squash in a large roasting pan. Cut butter into 1 Tb sized pieces, and place in the well of the squash, and spread around the neck too. Sprinkle with the sea salt. Roast for about 1 hour at about 325 degrees. You’ll want to keep checking them, watching for them to get nice and carmelized. They should look like this:

2. Puree the squash
Scoop out the squash into a large bowl. If your house is like mine, this is where a certain husband starts hanging around, waiting to get a taste. Working in small batches, puree the squash in a food processor. Set aside.

(This is a good time to clean up.)

3. Saute
Heat the pot, the saute the shallots in 2 (or so) Tb of butter on low heat until they’re golden.

4. Assemble the soup
Add the pureed squash, and two cans of chicken stock to the pot. This is where you need to evaluate the consistency. Do you like a thicker, stand your spoon in it soup? Or do you like it to be lighter, a little more, well, soupy? It’s up to you.

5. Season
You’ll probably hear me say this often, but there’s nothing like fresh herbs. I try to keep a crop of them going during most of the year in my garden boxes. (That’s my mom’s and Grandma Nisly’s influence I think.) I am liberal with fresh herbs. For this soup, I would use a combination of 3 Tb of fresh thyme and sage. Or 3 Tb of fresh thyme, and 1 tsp of dried sage. Grind some pepper over the pot. Season with a little garlic salt. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes.

6. Top it off
Stir about 1/4 cup of heavy cream into the soup. Turn down the heat.

7. Make it your own
I love this topped with some crumbled, crisped prosciutto. A little extra cream drizzled on the top guilds the lily. Some add pureed, baked apples. I like mine more savory than sweet. But like I said, it’s up to you.