Thursday, January 06, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup with star anise and ginger shrimp: yummy in a hurry!

Have I mentioned my affinity for all things delicious, fast, and easy in these days of being a slave to an A.D.D. afflicted one-year-old? Oh, that's right , I just did in this recent post. Okay, C-boy really isn't A.D.D. afflicted. I hear they're all like that. Damn those developmental milestones. What will I hear next, that he's about to start walking? You know, when I mention hobbling his wrists to his ankles I get the funniest looks. Anyway, I have also meant to make use of these butternut squash that I grew in my little garden this summer. My b-nuts were one of the few "successes" in an otherwise not so fulfilling garden season. Now I know why they invented grocery store produce sections! You know, I really don't think when you factor in water, time, and worry that these are all that cost effective grown at home. I mean at our organic market they cost about $.50 a pound.

So I've had the squash in my basement, thinking that I can somehow make ALL FIVE of them last until next year. We had a pretty decadent pasta the night before, so a light soup seemed to be the perfect follow up. Then I can rationalize overindulging again tonight. So sitting at work I start perusing epicurious and came across the followiong butternut squash soup recipe that led to that (in my not-so-humble opinion) pretty sweet picture above. Just what I needed...10 minutes of prep time, about 30 minutes of watching things cook. The results were lovely. The soup was rich, silky smooth, with an intriguing added dimension, ever so very slightly licorice-y, from the star anise that cooked in the pot along with the squash. Great stuff with the crispy ginger shrimp resting in pinkish splendor on a golden pool.....or something like that.

If you're looking for a perfect wine pairing, I think a bottle of Argentinean Torrontes would be awesome. Make sure you get a drier styled one, like the 2009 Crios de Susanna Balbo, one of the best out there.
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Butternut Squash Soup with Star Anise and Ginger Shrimp
adapted from epicurious

makes about 5 cups

18 large shrimp in shell (about 1 lb), peeled, leaving tail and first segment of shell intact, and deveined
2 or 3 tablespoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2/3 cup chopped shallot
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
3 whole star anise
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 3/4 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (5 cups)
4 cups chicken stock or broth (the original recipe called for adding 2 cups water, which would have left this way to thin- bb)
Salt and white pepper (you can use regular freshly ground black pepper, but I prefer not to have black specks floating in the soup. All about aesthetics, you know!- bb)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1-Have all prep done before combining shrimp and ginger.

2-Toss shrimp with ginger in a bowl and marinate, chilled, 30 minutes (do not marinate any longer or enzymes from ginger will begin to cook shrimp).

3-Cook shallot, garlic, and anise in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until shallot is softened, about 5 minutes. Add squash, stock, and water and simmer, uncovered, until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Remove star anise.
Purée soup in 2 batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids) until very smooth, about 1 minute per batch, then transfer to cleaned pan. Season with salt and white pepper. Keep warm, covered.

4-Sprinkle marinated shrimp with salt. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté shrimp in 2 batches, stirring, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per batch, transferring to paper towels.
Bring soup to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Divide among shallow soup bowls and mound 3 or 4 shrimp in each bowl.

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