The cold snapped into place this week in New York. Long underwear and turtlenecks got pulled down from the upper shelves of closets and oversized circle scarves covered faces. The city begins to turn inward this time of year, a collective hunch against the wind. Coming home late from a day of work, hands still icy, nothing has the same effect as a bowl of earthy soup.
Adapting recipes to what I have on hand rather than buying more ingredients has been a necessary challenge these past few months. There is a certain gratification in cooking what is there rather than what has to be sought, and this soup comes through that process. I had a morning to myself and a kitchen empty save a single squash, pantry items, and a batch of homemade chicken stock. Through a bit of improvisation and substitution, I arrived at this.
(liberally adapted from a New York Times, Florence Fabricant, recipe for a squash soup published in the early nineties. )
1 acorn squash
1 red onion, diced
1 overripe apple, peeled and diced
a splash of brandy
2 cups chicken stock*
about 1 cup water
*homemade stock will make a huge difference here.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Split the squash in half and roast skin side down on a foil lined baking sheet until tender. No need to oil the pan here. Pour a little water into the pan to create a more humid oven.
Saute the onion until soft in a soup pot. Add the apple chunks and a splash of water. Cover. The apple, especially if quite ripe, will disintegrate quickly, making a kind of onionapplesauce. Add a splash of brandy.
Let the squash cool before scooping out the flesh and adding to the pot. Add chicken stock and let simmer for a bit. Puree until smooth. Add kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and spices to taste.
Toast the coconut chips for garnish, filling the kitchen with warm aromas while they brown. They add crunch and sweetness to the soup (and a gentle reminder of warmer climes).