Start researching the history of squash and squash soup, and you learn quickly that France is the Austin of Europe: It claims credit for many things that originated elsewhere, including pumpkin soup. It seems impossible to determine where exactly these gourds originated, with evidence found both in Egypt and Mexico that dates back 10,000 years or more, but (while counterarguments exist) it does seem fairly clear that squash soup began in North Africa. All we really needed, though, was a solid recipe to kick off cold weather soup.
For that we turned to a handful of local chefs to track down a butternut squash soup recipe from the creative mind of the late Chef Michael Paske. “Paske used to make this version with rutabaga, and the weird thing is that the rutabaga made it taste cheesy without cheese,” said J. Mays, co-owner of Cafe 7 and The Hamilton. It’s impossible not to look for a recipe that makes things cheesy without actually adding cheese, so we asked Chef Chad Mills of Cheever’s Cafe about it.
“It might go back to The Coach House,” he said. “Chef Kurt (Fleischfresser) made us peel root vegetables for hours, including rutabaga.” Fleischfresser remembered training young chefs to peel both the inner and outer skins of root vegetables, but the recipe in question didn’t emerge from the apprenticeship program at The Coach House.
If this were a true crime podcast, the break in the case would be right here, but there was no break; no one remembered Chef Paske writing down the recipe, so we took input from Mays and Mills to construct the closest thing we’re likely to get. If you enjoy cooking at home, this should be a great starter. It’s interesting to see what different spice blends do to the flavor profile, and since North Africa is the point of origin, experimenting with za’atar or berbere makes sense. If cooking isn’t your thing, Mills is slinging his butternut squash soup with chipotle cream at Cheever’s on and off through the rest of the year.
Butternut and Apple Soup with Rutabaga
1 medium or large butternut squash 3 Gala or Fuji apples (just avoid tart apples if these aren’t available)
1 small rutabaga
1 large onion
2 large carrots
4 ribs of celery
1 quart of vegetable or chicken broth 1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Sautee the aromatics until brown, adding ginger toward the end.
Deglaze with water or dry white wine. Add broth.
Add boiled or roasted butternut squash, cubed before cooking.
Add cored, peeled, and diced apples.
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until all ingredients are soft.
Use an immersion blender or puree in batches.