Blue Hubbard Squash Soup with Crumbled Bacon and Toasted Hazelnuts

PHOTO BY KATIE NOBLE / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY

This simple soup manages to be rich and creamy without added cream thanks to the naturally smooth texture of the squash itself. To make it vegetarian, simply sauté the vegetables in butter or olive oil, omit the bacon and use vegetable broth instead of chicken. You’ll certainly have more than 2 pounds of flesh from a single Blue Hubbard, unless you find a particularly small one. Use what you need for this recipe and roast up the rest to freeze for another use—adding frozen roasted squash to stews or chili or any other vegetable soup boosts flavor, nutrients and adds brilliant color in the dead of winter. As with all of these recipes, feel free to substitute with whatever local squash you have on hand, but if you seek out the Blue Hubbard you’ll be rewarded with a great storage vegetable, as these grey-green beauties only get better with age; buy a few now to decorate your porch or table and use them as late into the season as you can for a fully developed sweetness.

Serves 4–6

2–2½ pounds Blue Hubbard squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ pound bacon, diced
2 large onions, sliced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus more for serving
5 cups chicken broth, homemade if possible but boxed is fine
2 teaspoons cider vinegar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skins rubbed away and chopped, for serving

Preheat oven to 425°F. Toss squash cubes with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast on a parchment-lined baking sheet until soft all the way through and browned at the edges, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place a large enameled Dutch oven over medium heat and add the chopped bacon. Cook, stirring, until the fat has rendered and the bacon is crispy, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon bits to a paper-towel-lined plate and set aside. Pour out the bacon fat (reserve it for another use: potatoes! eggs! Brussels sprouts!) and add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the sliced onion and fennel. Season with salt and pepper and sauté, stirring, until the vegetables are soft and deeply caramelized.

When the squash is cooked through, add it to the Dutch oven with the garlic and thyme. Cook 2–3 minutes to meld the flavors, then add the chicken broth and vinegar and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat 15 minutes, then taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Using an immersion (stick) blender, purée the soup until very smooth. Serve in shallow bowls with crispy bacon bits and chopped toasted hazelnuts sprinkled over the top, along with some fresh thyme leaves and cracked pepper.

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Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, soccer mom, Italophile and managing editor at Edible Boston. She can be reached at sarah@edibleboston.com.