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Butternut Squash & Leek Soup

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Butternut Squash

I was channel surfing this morning as I was prepped the ingredients for this soup.  My viewing choices were narrowed down to several contenders – Sunday night’s episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on the dvr, and Squawk on the Street was on CNBC.  I almost settled on Camille Grammar and her gang, but I made a last minute decision to listen to a documentary about John Carpenter and the making of the original Halloween movie while I cooked.  Squash soup and Michael Myers …. oh yes, fall is here.
I was in 9th grade when I saw Halloween for the first time - I was at a sleepover in a friend’s basement.  I had strategically placed my sleeping bag so that I wouldn’t be on the outside edge nearest to the dark hallway.  I figured that somehow I would be much safer than my friends if Michael Myers crashed our party.  I vividly remember being purely scared out of my wits and never, ever wanted to babysit ever again after that sleepover.  My career as a checkout girl at Shopko began shortly thereafter.  :-)

There’s nothing scary about this soup, and it is the epitome of autumn in every way!  I’m serving it tonight with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, but it would be a stellar first course at any dinner party – Thanksgiving included.  It really is that delicious.  Hope you like it!

Also, I have two loaves of this bread cooling on my kitchen counter.  They smell heavenly!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH & LEEK SOUP
Serves:  8 as a first course
Source:  foodandwine.com

4 1/2 lbs. butternut squash, halved top to bottom
5 T. butter (I used 4)
4 large leeks, white and tender green parts, washed well and coarsely chopped (leeks are on sale)
7 fresh thyme sprigs or 1 t. dried (I used dried)
5 c. chicken stock or unsalted canned broth
1 1/4 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. sour cream (**see note**)
about 3 T. chopped chives
8 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled

Preheat oven to 350.  Place the squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet and bake until tender, about 40 minutes (for me this took almost an hour).  Let cool slightly.  Using a spoon, scoop out and discard the seeds.  Scrape the squash from the skin.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy saucepan or flameproof casserole, melt the butter over low heat.  Add the leeks and thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and browned, about 40 minutes.  Discard the thyme sprigs.

Stir in the stock and the squash.  Simmer over moderate heat for 20 minutes.  In a blender or food processor, carefully puree the soup in batches until smooth (I used my stick blender).  Pour the soup back into the pan and season with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon sour cream, 1 teaspoon chives, and a sprinkling of bacon.

**NOTE**:  Vermont Creme Fraiche is on sale if you’d like to use it instead of sour cream.  :-)

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Leah Damron is an avid home cook who believes in using the freshest ingredients available, and she challenges herself weekly to create meals out of (mostly!) sale items. If Sendik's ever gave a title for "Biggest Fan", she believes she would win, hands down. Leah lives in greater Milwaukee with her husband, three children, and her big black lab, Daisy."

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