Sunday, July 15, 2012
A few months back I began a three part series on squash soup, the goal being to demonstrate not only how to make a delectable roasted vegetable soup but also how to morph the leftovers into a totally different meal. In the first video, I roasted squash and used it to make a basic soup. I then took a quart of that soup and turned it into one of my favorite soups ever, a sweet and spicy Vietnamese noodle soup with coconut, curry, and rice noodles. Today I complete that series with a recipe for crab bisque, another of my soups that has brought smiles and applause.
(Well, from me, at least.)
Culinary Inspiration from Supermarket Soup
As I pointed out in another of my leftover soup concoctions, curried roasted eggplant soup, culinary inspiration comes from all places – even prepared convenience foods from a local supermarket (Whole Foods) or soup and sandwich chain (Au Bon Pain). I’m far from alone in trying out an away-from-home goodie and looking for the recipe online: my post on eggplant soup is one of my most popular, it turns out. This story is no different, as it began when I first sampled the butternut squash crab bisque as part of Whole Foods’ lineup about 5 years ago; sweet potato crab bisque is a similar variant they offer. I fell in love with that soup, and purchasing it every now and again was a special treat when I didn’t feel like cooking and had a craving.
It was only a matter of time before I said “I can make this.”
And so can you.
Butternut Squash Crab Bisque
Prepare the basic roasted squash soup as shown here; additional ingredients are onion, carrots, celery, shallot, garlic, sherry, crab meat, and cream. In a soup pot, sauté 1/2-1 medium finely diced onion, 1/2 cup each carrot and celery, and 1 shallot on medium heat in 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent and soft, about 6 minutes. (Carrots and celery are optional.) Add 1-2 cloves of crushed garlic and stir for 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add 1/2 cup sherry to deglaze the pan. (You can omit the sherry if you prefer; the soup will still be delicious.) Bring to a boil and reduce as much as you’d like: I prefer having a stronger scent of sherry but if you don’t you can reduce it completely, taking care not to scorch the onions. After a few minutes, add ~4-6 cup of the roasted squash soup, whatever quantity you have / feel like using. Heat the soup on medium-high, until hot. Add 1 cup of crab meat (lump, claw, or legs), picked over to remove extraneous shells, and about 1/2-1 cup light or heavy cream. Mix, heat through, and season to taste with black or white pepper, salt, sherry, and cream. Serve garnished with diced red pepper or a few pieces of crab meat, along with fresh herbs.
For a more complete write-up of this recipe that starred sweet potatoes instead of squash, just click here; the method and ingredients are otherwise the same as discussed here.
Other Notes: From Leftovers to Freezer to Dinner
First, note that this recipe could easily substitute lobster for the crab, if you are so inclined, and it would be a much less expensive and labor intensive version of lobster bisque of sorts, albeit not quite as lobster-y as hyou’ll begin with a squash base rather than a lobster stock. You can also add fresh tarragon, thyme, or sage to the soup, as I do on occasion. (Just one or two, not all.) And, like all soups, this one freezes well and I recently enjoyed a bowl one evening. (Yes, hot soup is just as good in the summer as it is in the winter and can even help cool you off.)
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I enjoy sipping a glass of sherry while making this soup,
The Moral of Today’s Soup Story
So, you see, the moral of today’s soup story is simple. Many people don’t have time to cook homemade meals from scratch every day, and I am one of them. Until I am either a food television star, own a restaurant, or win the lottery, I will likely never have the pleasure or gift of cooking every day. And, who are we kidding? I wouldn’t even then, given how much I enjoy dining out on occasion to experience the culinary wonders of the world beyond my own kitchen.
But I digress.
The moral is that you don’t need to cook every day to eat freshly prepared meals the majority of the time. Home cooked meals are often much healthier for you than prepared foods even in the best of circumstances, whether due to portion distortion or unknown and unnecessary ingredients. I’m not saying it takes no effort, to be clear: I did take a bit of time to make the initial roasted squash soup. But that one soup went a long way in making three different dishes, all of which were frozen for another meal. (Soups can easily remain in the freezer a good 6 months, by the way.)
To recap: Learn to cook. Learn to love leftovers and use them creatively. Learn to freeze.
Assuming all is kept in balance, you will most likely lose weight, improve your health, and enjoy more quality time with your friends, family, and loved ones, who will appreciate your efforts. I hope you’ll also have a sense of accomplishment, if not fun. And don’t knock preparing a fabulous home cooked meal even if it’s just for you, either. I’ve done the same on innumerable occasions.
And guess what?
You’re worth it.
Note. This post was developed into its own recipe starting from scratch, which is here. The photos are from that soup, since they are quite a bit better than the original. If you do use butternut squash, the soup will be lighter in hue (i.e., more yellow, less orange) than pictured.