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Hot Squash Soup

On cold mornings, I like to turn on the oven to warm up the kitchen. I know you're not supposed to heat your house with the oven. That's why I try to stick something in there so I can claim I'm actually cooking. Roasting a couple of heads of garlic is a good idea--you can always use roasted garlic for salad dressing or something. It's easy to do. You cut off the top ends of the garlic heads, put them in an ovenproof dish, pour a spoonful of olive oil over them, then roast them until they're brown and squishy.

 I roasted a sweet potato one day. I just put it in a dish so it wouldn't leak juice all over the oven and let it roast at 300 degrees for an hour and a half. The day after that, I roasted an acorn squash. I cut it in two and put the halves in a baking dish with an inch of water in the bottom and covered it with foil. I also baked some bacon on a rack over an oven pan.  After three days of cold weather, I had a bunch of roasted stuff sitting there on the kitchen counter. So I decided to turn it all into squash soup.

I've had a lot of squash and pumpkin soups in Houston restaurants. The usual version has some apples or pears in it and tastes sweet. I was getting a little bored of the sweet approach, so I was delighted to discover an excellent spicy Creole pumpkin soup at Central Grocery in Oxford Mississippi, the kick-ass Southern restaurant run by chef John Currence. Inspired by Currence's soup, I have tried a couple of variations lately. The latest was made out of all the roasted ingredients that have kept my kitchen warm recently. Here's the recipe:

 Spicy Acorn Squash Soup

You can roast the squash, sweet potato and garlic and bake the bacon on a rack in the oven all at the same time if you want.

1 acorn squash, roasted

1 sweet potato, roasted

3 heads roasted garlic

1 stick of butter

2 tablespoons bacon grease

1 large onion, chopped

1 quart chicken stock

1 teaspoon ground thyme

3 sprigs rosemary, cleaned and minced

1 cup milk or cream

White pepper to taste

Habanero pepper sauce to taste

Salt to taste

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4 strips of crisp bacon

Scoop out the flesh of the squash, remove the peel from the sweet potato and squeeze out the roasted garlic cloves carefully removing any skin and combine in a bowl. Melt a stick of butter over medium heat in a soup pot and add the bacon grease. Saute the onion stirring frequently until soft. Add the squash mixture, the chicken stock and the herbs. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cook for twenty minutes at a low simmer. Puree with a submersible mixer until smooth. (Or allow to cool, process in batches in a food processor, then reheat.) Bring to a rapid boil, then reduce heat and add the milk or cream and stir well. Add white pepper, habanero sauce and salt to taste. Serve in soup bowls and garnish with a topping of crumbled bacon.

Makes 8 cups

-- Robb Walsh

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