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November brings fall cuisine staples such as gourds, orange, pears, root vegetables, warming spices — and a recipe for roasted squash soup with Gulf shrimp.
othing beats a porch full of rotting jack-o’-lanterns. I properly disposed of them along with all of the nasty candy corn, and made certain the apples hadn’t been contaminated with razor blades. That’s not to say I don’t love Halloween, it’s just that I love November more. The sun recedes a bit, the grey skies sling a touch of moisture our way and here in Mobile, the people are treated to their first real bit of cold.
Yes, here it is a treat. It’s worth the nine months of hot weather just to be rewarded with something cool enough for a sweater. You most likely won’t even have to wash your church clothes this month until you’ve worn them a half-dozen times, provided you mind your manners at that Sunday buffet.
This is the month food changes for me. Pears and oranges take a front seat right next to apples. My usual turnips (roots and greens) start to show up on the home menu with other root vegetables, while cinnamon and nutmeg find their way into as many dishes as possible (not just the sweet ones). Bottles of rosé and margaritas magically transform into pinot noir and neat bourbon, respectively. And with Thankstaking and Thanksgiving fast approaching we gear up for what is for me the happiest and probably busiest time of the year.
Thanksgiving never really leaves my mind. As a food editor I believe it is the most important day of the year, and you wouldn’t have to dig deep to find my love for this blessed day as a child played a big part in leading me to this line of work. However it isn’t just Turkey Day itself. From Nov. 1 until that single Thursday, the excitement ramps up. I thought about inventing a Thanksgiving advent calendar, but of course a quick internet search shows it already exists. One more missed opportunity.
Forgive my usual annual gushing about Thanksgiving. Bear with me. I have to get it out of my system like all of the other cooking magazines and online columns. Today I am feeling like cooking something that is a little bit fall and a little bit Mobile. A hot roasted squash soup with Gulf shrimp is how I am kicking off my favorite month. It’s savory and sweet — but if too sweet, be sure to be generous with the hot sauce.
Roasted Squash Soup with Gulf Shrimp
• 1 butternut squash, halved, seeded and sliced crossways into inch-thick pieces
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• ¼ cup butter
• ½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
• Creole seasoning
• 1 cup white onion diced
• Coarse salt
• Fresh ground black pepper
• 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 sprigs of thyme
• 1 teaspoon curry powder
• ½ cup sour cream
• Green onions for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Toss the squash in olive oil and a pinch of salt, then roasting them until tender. This may take 30-45 minutes. Don’t be afraid to brown them a bit. The skin will peel off easily.
In a large Dutch oven melt half the butter over medium heat. Season the shrimp with the Creole seasoning and cook just until done. Remove shrimp and cover them until needed.
Melt the rest of the butter on medium-high and add the onion. Once the onion becomes tender, add the peeled squash, bay leaves and thyme to the pot, stirring for about another minute. Season with a couple turns of black pepper, add the curry powder and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove the thyme and bay leaves. I have a Vitamix that is my favorite blender and handles hot liquids well. Many of you may want to blend this in batches but be careful. Make sure your blender can handle the heat. However, I keep the Vitamix on retainer for smoothies and the like. For soups I prefer using the immersion blender. I’ve had the same one for 20 years and it’s going strong.
You may want to keep it a little chunky but I went for smooth right there in the pot and stirred in the sour cream. Add the shrimp at the end, just enough to reheat but not to overcook. Serve hot and garnish with green onions.
Hot sauce for this soup can be tricky. Your best bet is to avoid one with too much vinegar. It may be time to break out the Sriracha.
It’s good. It’s really good. If you crave it on one of those warmer November days then simply put the air conditioner on penguin mode and bundle up. It’s a fall flavor for sure. Options are to lose the curry and find a place for ground cloves, cinnamon or nutmeg.
I am certainly a “drink what you want when you want” guy, but I am trying to be more pairing sensitive. The earthy roasted squash flavor invites a dirty Oregon pinot noir while the shrimp ask for maybe a chenin blanc.
You might be able to get by with a rosé, although you’d better do this before Thanksgiving. The wine police think rosé after Black Friday is worse than white pants after Labor Day. To be on the safe side, I just don’t wear white and drink enough rosé to not care.
Find your way through this recipe or supplement the squash with roasted root veggies to celebrate the earth tones. No matter how it turns out you can blame me for it. I’ll be your Fall Guy.