Red Cooked Butternut Squash Soup


Here is a recipe for squash soup that is on the menu frequently in the fall, adapted from a Chinese recipe for Hong Shao, or red-cooked pork. It has a tiny amount of sweetness and a hint of spice, and is great for cooler weather. At the restaurant, we garnish the soup with a spiced marshmallow, caramelized shallots, dahlia, and aged soy, but at home some salted, toasted pumpkin seeds will do the trick. Feel free to substitute any dense and sweet squash variety.


1 large, whole, butternut squash

2 cups good extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons maple sugar or pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon mixed whole spices (white pepper, clove, mace, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, star anise, dried chili, and nutmeg)

1 leek, chopped and washed

1 onion, peeled and diced

1 celery stalk, washed and chopped

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 fresh chili, not too hot, split and seeded

1 bouquet of fresh herbs (thyme, marjoram, lovage, cilantro), tied with twine

8 cups vegetable broth Dark soy sauce, to taste

Salt to taste

Salted toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Wash the squash and cut it in half lengthwise (leave the skin on, as it will protect the squash while it roasts). Either remove the seeds and toast them with salt and olive oil and use as a garnish, or leave them in the squash to roast—they will improve the flavor. Roast the squash on a baking sheet, cut side down, until the skin browns and the flesh is tender. If, during the roasting, the squash gets too browned before the flesh is soft, add a cup of water to the baking pan. Reserve the resulting liquid to add to the soup later.

Meanwhile, heat 1 cup olive oil in a large stockpot. Add the maple sugar or syrup and cook to a light caramel. Add the ginger to the caramel and brown it. Add the spices and toast in the caramel until they are fragrant, about 1-2 minutes, then add the vegetables, soy sauce, and herbs. Salt well at this point. Put the lid on the pot and allow to simmer over a very low fire for 30 minutes to an hour, the longer the better.

Once the squash is roasted and tender (the skin should separate and peel off easily) and the vegetables are softened and aromatic, remove and discard the squash skin and add the squah flesh to the pot. Pour in enough vegetable broth to allow the squash pieces to float freely. Bring to a simmer to combine the flavors, remove the tied bouquet of herbs, then taste and adjust the seasonings. Purée in batches, along with the reserved 1 cup olive oil, and pass through a fine sieve or chinois to remove any remaining pieces of the whole spices. Serve garnished with salted, toasted pumpkin seeds and a drizzle of aged soy sauce, if desired.