I, personally, can think of no more soul-satisfying meal than a hot, creamy bowl of butternut squash soup on a chilly fall day.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Bacon and Crispy Sage
2 large butternut squashes, cut in half lengthwise and cored (or, 2-3 cups cubed butternut squash)
8 large strips of smokey bacon
1 bunch fresh sage leaves
Olive oil (3-4 Tbs)
Maple syrup (3-4 Tbs)
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1/4 cup Heavy cream
4 Tbs Mascarpone or Creme Fraiche
After cutting the squash lengthwise and scooping out the seeds and stringy pulp, rub the exposed flesh with olive oil, sprinkle with cayenne pepper (just a tiny bit!) and salt, and drizzle with maple syrup. Place the squash on a roasting sheet or in a roasting pan and lay 1 strip of bacon on each of the squash (reserve the other 4 strips). Roast for 1 hour in a 400 degree oven, or until the squash is fork tender. If using cubed squash, toss the squash in a oven-proof dish with the olive oil, cayenne, salt, and maple syrup and lay all the bacon on top of the squash. Roast as directed.
While the squash roasts, fire up your laptop, open your current WIP and get to work. The delicious smells wafting from the the kitchen should inspire you :)
Once the squash is tender, scoop out the flesh, discard the bacon strips, and puree the squash and any juices in a blender. Add a little water as needed. The final result should be a very smooth, very thick (think baby-food consistency) puree. Transfer the puree to a pot and bring to a low simmer, adding water, salt, the heavy cream, and maple syrup as needed to adjust the thickness (my preference is for a thick soup that coats the spoon but is pourable) and seasoning. If the soup tastes a little flat, more salt is probably needed.
Meanwhile, cut the remaining bacon into a fine dice (quick tip: freeze the remaining bacon strips -- they are easier to cut if frozen) and fry them until crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan, but reserve the drippings. Coarsely chop the sage leaves and fry them in the reserved bacon fat until they are crispy as well. Drain the fried sage and bacon on paper towels and set aside.
Once the soup is the desired consistency and flavor, spoon it into serving bowls. Top each bowl with a dollop of either mascarpone (for a creamy/sweeter flavor) or creme fraiche (for a tangier flavor) and sprinkle with a little of the fried sage and bacon.