Saturday, October 22, 2011

squash and tomatillo soup with nacho garnish

This soup (from one of the many Moosewood cookbooks) is DYNOMITE*.  Rich, a little sweet and creamy from the squash, bright flavor from the tomatillos, and warmly spicy from chipotles.  I stole an idea from Nigella Lawson (from her corn chowder recipe) to top it with what are basically nachos, and my only regret was not having a ripe avocado in the house.

You can use any kind of winter squash (mine was one of those ufo squashes, but butternut would be great, sugar pumpkin, delicata, kabocha, hubbard, etc).

 I was lucky enough to get 2 pounds of home grown tomatillos for my very own from my friends Felicia and David.  They had so many tomatillos from their garden that when I went over to their house for dinner, they had enough for us to make a double batch of this soup, as well as a batch of enchiladas verdes, in addition to the 2 pounds they sent me home with.  Don't worry if you aren't so lucky - according to the original recipe, you can substitute canned tomatillos no problem, just drain a 26 oz. can and add it along with the canned tomatoes later on, skipping the roasting step.

Squash and Tomatillo Soup
slightly adapted from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics
serves 8

for the soup:
tomatillos (about 2 pounds)
onions (4-5 cups chopped, which usually means 4-5 onions)
garlic (8 cloves, smashed and chopped)
squash (6 cups, peeled, seeded and diced, about 3 pounds)
olive oil
salt and pepper
stock (6 cups, vegetable or chicken)
tomatoes (a 28 oz can of either whole plum tomatoes or diced tomatoes, with their juice)
chipotles in adobo (2 teaspoons minced, or more to taste)

for the nacho topping:
corn tortillas (12)
cheddar cheese (2 cups shredded)
pickled jalapenos (whole or chopped)

other awesome toppings you might like to have:
sour cream
chopped cilantro
sliced scallions
diced avocado
more chipotle in adobo
shredded cheese and crumbled tortilla chips (if you want to skip making the nachos)

to make the soup:

Turn your broiler on high. 

Remove the husks from the tomatillos, rinse them and slice them in half.  Throw them on a sheet pan or cookie sheet with a rim, drizzle with a little olive oil, and place under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until they soften, their bright green color turns pale, and some get some black spots.  (Note: the original recipe says to roast them at 450 for 30 to 35 minutes... you should do it this way if your tomatillos are large, but the broiler method worked great for me because most of my tomatillos were apricot sized or smaller).

In a large heavy soup pot, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil and add the onions.  Sprinkle on some salt, stir around and turn the heat to medium.  Stir often, till they soften and turn a bit golden.  Add the chopped garlic and fry till you can smell it.  Stir in the squash chunks, the stock and the can of tomatoes with their juice (if you're using canned tomatillos, add them now).  Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 or so minutes, until the squash is very soft.  Add the chipotles and the roasted tomatillos, and simmer it all together briefly.

In a blender** (or with a stick blender), puree the soup until smooth.  I tried my stick blender first, and it just didn't cut it, so I resorted to doing it in batches in my blender, which was totally up to the task.   This soup freezes and reheats great.  You can serve it right away, of course.

to make the nacho topping (enough for 8 servings):

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Have two sheet pans ready.  Using a pastry brush (or your fingers if you don't mind getting messy), lightly oil both sides of each tortilla, then stack them and cut them first in half, then each half in thirds.  Arrange the triangles on your cookie sheets, sprinkle on some salt, and bake them near the bottom of the oven (rotate your pans halfway through) for 20 minutes, until light golden and crisp.

Sprinkle cheese onto each nacho (I get ridiculously particular about this... you don't have to.  But I really like EACH. NACHO. to have enough cheese on it).  Sprinkle on finely chopped diced pickled jalapenos, if you like (or do like we did and just throw a whole pickled jalapeno in your bowl later).  Return to the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese.

*if you are a soup lover, you will love this.  if you aren't, well, I'm sorry.

**Remember to be really careful when blendering hot soup - take the little clear plastic thingie out of the top of the blender and put a dishtowel folded into quarters over the hole, this lets the hot air out when you start the blender, instead of the whole thing exploding napalm-y soup all over you and your kitchen.

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