Roasted butternut squash combines with carrots and potatoes for creaminess. Topped with bacon croutons!
I have made a lot of sweet treats lately, so it's time for something a little healthier. I know what you're thinking. How can something with "bacon" in the title be healthy? Trust me. This dish is 99% saint and just 1% sinner ;)
The soup itself is lean and vegetable-rich, with roasted butternut squash, combining with carrots, celery, onion, and a few potatoes for a creamy texture, without the need for a lot of cream. In fact, cream is completely optional in this soup. I added about 2 Tbsp. just because I had a tiny bit of cream to use up. It certainly isn't necessary though. By using a fat-free stock base, and little or no cream, there's plenty to feel good about in this soup.
Roasting the butternut squash is well worth the extra bit of time, as it really brings out the sweetness and richness of the squash.
Once the squash is roasted, this soup comes together really quickly, needing just enough time to simmer the vegetables to tenderness. Once tender, you can puree this soup a bit to blend the flavours, leaving just a bit of chunky vegetables for some colour.
Even though the soup starts with a low-sodium stock, to really bring out the flavours of this soup, salting well is recommended. I just add a bit and taste and add and taste, so I put in only as much as is needed.
Now about the croutons. Yes, they're the "1% sinner" part. The bacon croutons are made by sauteing the bread cubes in bacon fat until they're crispy. Yes. I feel a little guilty just typing that. True, it's a bit of an indulgence, but they are unbelievably delicious and a lovely addition to this chowder. Of course, you can simply saute your bread in some olive or vegetable oil instead or, if you'd like to keep this soup really low-fat, you could bake the croutons.
Cook's Notes for Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder
I didn't put any of the actual bacon on or in the soup, but you certainly can if you like. We are always looking for bacon bits in this household though, so they never go to waste. I used red-skinned potatoes and left the skin on.
The bit of cream at the end of cooking is nice, but it's certainly not necessary, if you'd like a dairy-free soup.
You can saute the croutons in olive or vegetable oil, if you prefer not to use bacon at all here.
Be sure to taste and salt well before serving, to really bring out the great flavours of this soup.
Top Tip! This soup would be lovely with a little bit of mild curry, as well - either added to the soup or used to flavour the croutons.
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Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder
- 2 lb. butternut squash
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup onion (diced)
- 1 1/2 cups potatoes (diced, red-skinned or yukon gold, peeled or unpeeled, as you like)
- 2 ribs celery (diced)
- 1 1/2 cups carrots (diced)
- 4 cups chicken broth ( or vegetable broth)
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- Optional: just a splash of cream at the end of cooking, nice but not necessary
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 2-3 Tbsp. flat-leaf parsley (chopped)
For bacon croutons:
- 3 strips bacon (diced)
- 3 slices bread (cut into cubes)
- Pinch dried thyme
- Preheat the oven to 425° F. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Brush the insides of the squash with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash onto a baking sheet cut side up (line with foil for easy clean-up, if you like). Roast the squash for about 40 minutes, or until tender. Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet to room temperature while you prepare the rest of the soup.
- For the bacon croutons: In a skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon pieces to paper towel, but leave all the bacon fat in the skillet. Add the bread cubes and spinkle with a pinch of thyme. Cook, stirring, until the croutons are crisp and golden. Remove to a plate to cool. (You can use the cooked bacon to garnish the soup, if you like, or refrigerate for another use).
- In a large, heavy soup pot, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. When the butter begins to brown, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add the potatoes, celery, carrots, chicken stock and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot partially and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
- Scoop out the flesh from the cooked and cooled squash into the soup pot. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes longer.
- Transfer one third of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth, then stir the puree back into the soup (or blend with an immersion blender until it is partially pureed, leaving some chunks). Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the most parsley (reserve a bit for garnish) and serve with bacon croutons and a sprinkle of reserved parsley.