We put up our Christmas tree Sunday afternoon. It’s the first year in our decade-plus of togetherness that we’re using an artificial tree. And I’m pretty sure we screwed it up, because as I type this, I’m sitting on the couch, directly across the living room from the tree, and I can see a near-perfect hole running through it, a gaping spot of nothing, where I can see all the way to the wall on the other side. I think it’s safe to assume that is NOT how Martha Stewart intended us to assemble her tree. Whatever, the tree is fully lit and decorated, so aside from the ever-diminishing possibility that I could become arsed enough to rearrange some ornaments to cover it a little, it’s staying that way.
Yesterday I thought it was a good idea to make a gingerbread scone dough, roll it out, then stamp out little gingerbread men with my cookie cutter, bake them, and then decorate them with royal icing. It was not a good idea. Oh god, never do this. When scones are cut into rounds, squares, or triangles, “craggy” is endearing. When the scones are shaped like gingerbread men, “craggy” suddenly becomes an ugly insult and a total liability for the royal icing. Which runs around in ways it never does on cookies. So bad, just don’t.
Also yesterday: Eater broke a bombshell sexual misconduct story on Mario Batali, and pretty much every famous insider in the fine dining industry shrugged and didn’t even try to feign surprise. When the John Besh scandal broke, I heard many with restaurant industry experience say we ought to just buckle our seatbelts, because this is only the first of many dominos to fall, and it’s going to be a very long ride. Seems they very well may be correct.
Today. Today we wait for the results of the Alabama Senate race, to see if a credibly accused pedophile actually gets elected. I’m not even sure what to say, other than the whole thing has surprised me a lot less than I wish it did. We’ll just have to see what happens.
Also today: there is soup, and one of my favorite kinds, the humble but mighty butternut squash soup. I make one every fall, without fail, and my completely arbitrary, self-imposed rule is that it must be a new recipe each year. Butternut squash soup seems kind of a blank slate, it will take on whatever flavors or supporting actor ingredients you want to throw at it. So far, my faves of years past have been one with smoked cheddar and another with whole-grain cinnamon sugared croutons on top. The one I’m sharing today will join those two to fill out my top three. Bacon and goat cheese are superlative additions to the sweet but earthy soup, and the pepitas add perfect crunch. I’m going to have a very tough time topping it, or hell, even matching it, next year. But that’s next year. For this year, enjoy this soup!
SOURCE: What Katie Ate At the Weekend by Katie Quinn Davies
⅓ cup pumpkin seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp dried rubbed sage
2 lbs. 4 oz. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 ¼-inch chunks
4 ½ tbs olive oil, divided
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 green apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1 ¼-inch chunks
1 lb. good-quality bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
⅔ cup goat cheese, divided
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Scatter the pumpkin seeds on a jelly roll pan and bake 5 minutes. Set aside.
Lightly grease a regular-sized baking sheet (a half sheet pan). In a small nonstick skillet, toast the cumin and coriander seeds over medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar, add the sage, and use the pestle to grind into a coarse powder.
Place the squash, ground spices, 2 ½ tbs oil, and salt to taste in a large bowl. Toss to evenly coat. Place on the prepared baking sheet, in a single layer, and roast 30 minutes. Add the apples and roast a further 20 minutes or until the squash and apple are tender.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp oil in a large stockpot. Add half the bacon and cook, stirring often, until browned and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a paper towel lined plate.
Pour out enough bacon grease to leave about a tablespoon in the pot. Add the remaining half of the bacon and cook, stirring, until some fat has rendered, but it doesn’t need to be crispy. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion has cooked through but not browned. Shut off the heat. Transfer the squash and apples to the stockpot along with the chicken stock and half the goat cheese. Use your immersion blender to puree the soup until as smooth as possible. Simmer slightly for 6 to 8 minutes until thickened slightly. Taste for seasoning and add kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
Ladle into bowls, and garnish with the pumpkin seeds, the crisped reserved bacon, and the rest of the goat cheese.