Don't you just want to dive right into this? Guys, this is yummy--really special! Sort of like french onion soup with that crusty cheesy top and all those onions but with the sweetness of tender pieces of butternut squash throughout. If you're looking for a fun project this weekend that will wow you in that homey, pick-the-cheese-off-the-side-of-the-dish way, this is the dish for you. It's warm and intensely flavorful. Perfect for curling up with on a cold winter night!
Part soup, part casserole--entirely delicious! If you can find the time, it's wonderful with homemade stock, but still pretty amazing with a good store-bought brand--don't let that hold you back from making this. It's exactly what you'd expect to get from a French countryside grandma when she had some stale bread and onions to use up--down-to-earth, rustic and simple in that "I don't cook with recipes but I know that all these things will taste good together" kind of way!!
Once you've sautéed the onions so that their natural sweetness is brought out, it's basically just a building game. You start with oven-dried slices of sourdough bread, layering onions, broth, sliced butternut squash and cheese in the process--lots of cheese on the top so that what you wind up with is a great big crusty, gooey, cheesy surface that everyone will fight over!!
Each delectable bite is rich and flavorful and full of so many tastes and textures. The bread gets pleasantly soggy, sopping up all that delicious broth with the butternut squash adding such color and contrast. And that cheesy top--did I mention the cheese?!! It's to die for!!
Getting to enjoy cold weather dishes like this is definitely a perk of wintertime eating--almost makes the chilliness of my living room (aka known as the place to dump hockey equipment as well as where I sit at the computer) bearable!! Make this soup--frigid temps won't seem half as bad--I promise!!
Butternut Squash Bread Soup
Makes 8 servings
Prep Time: Several hours, plus the time to make your own chicken stock if you possibly can
For the Soup
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 onions, peeled, cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled, 2 left whole and 2 thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme
- One 2-pound loaf of firm sourdough bread, sliced (but the best you can)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 2 quarts warm chicken stock, plus additional stock for serving (recipe below if you can make your own or buy the best you can)
- 2 pound butternut squash, peeled and sliced into thin 1/8-inch slices
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 cups freshly grated Comté or Gruyére cheese
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
For the Homemade Chicken Stock
- One 2 -2 1/2 pound chicken or the same weight in wings and backs
- 3 quarts cold water
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 celery rib, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- 3-4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
- A pinch of sea salt or kosher salt
- 10 whole black peppercorns
1. If you're making the chicken stock yourself, you'll need to do this several hours before you are preparing the soup or up to 3 days in the fridge or 2-3 months in the freezer. It's super easy--you just need time. Use a large pot and put the chicken and the water in. Add all the other ingredients and bring to a boil, then lower the heat so that the liquid is at a gentle simmer and let it cook for about 2 1/2 hours. Every so often, skim off any foam that rises to the surface. If it seems like the liquid is getting too low and the chicken is no longer submerged, add a little more water. When it's done, strain it through a fine-mesh strainer and discard the solids (or nibble on the chicken and veggies). Let cool and use right away or chill in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 2-3 months.
2. To make the Butternut Squash Bread Soup: Melt the butter in a Dutch oven or a large pot, over medium heat. Add the onions, the sliced garlic and the thyme and cook for about 35 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the onions are totally soft and beginning to brown a bit.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375ºF and place the bread on baking sheets in a single layer. Cook for about 5 minutes, then flip over and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the bread is dried out on both sides. When cool enough to handle, rub both sides of the slices with the whole garlic cloves. Set aside.
4. Once the onions are done, add the wine, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any brown bits and cook for a few minutes, until the wine is absorbed. Add 2 cups of the warm chicken stock and cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until the stock is mostly absorbed. Then add the rest of the stock and heat until the liquid is very hot. Remove the pan from the heat.
5. Using a 3-4 quart baking dish (it's best to use an oval-shaped dish if you have one so that the surface area of cheese is mazimized) line the bottom with a layer of bread. Break pieces off to fill in any crevices but try to keep as many pieces as whole as possible. Ladle about half the onions and some of the stock over the bread and then add half of the sliced squash in a layer. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with half of the Comté or Gruyére cheese. Add second layer of the bread and ladle the remaining onions and more stock over the bread. Cover with the remaining sliced squash and season with a bit more salt and pepper. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the Comté over that and cover the whole thing with the rest of the bread. Ladle on the rest of the stock, pressing down on the bread so that everything comes together. Top with the remaining cheese and the grated Parmesan.
6. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil around the edges, but don't press down on the top or the cheese may stick to it during the baking process. Place the casserole on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any spills and bake for 45 minutes. Then uncover and bake for about 30 minutes or so until the cheese is browned and crispy on top. Let cool for about 15 minutes and then serve.
7. Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave or oven and you can always add a little more cheese on top if necessary.
Note: Recipe adapted from My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. I tinkered around with some of the ingredients and proportions.