Winter Squash Bisque w/ Shrimp & Applewood Bacon

Winter Squash Bisque with Shrimp & Applewood Bacon

My first fall season in New York and I feel like a kid in a candy shop.  Streets sprinkled with yellow and orange trees are such sweet treats for a photo nut like myself.  And farmers markets filled with colorful gourds are quite inspiring for the food enthusiast in me…

Growing up in southern California, it’s easy to forget this little transition between summer and winter that most people refer to as “autumn”.  My only indicator of a season’s change was when I had to rethink wearing flip flops and perhaps throwing on a wool sweater.  We only wear coats in LA as a fashion statement because hindsight, 55 degrees is really not that cold.  And trees transformed into vibrant yellows, oranges and pinks?  Let’s face it, you’re more likely to run into Paris Hilton at Whole Foods Market on Santa Monica Blvd.

Autumn in New York is such a magnificent sight and it makes strolling through the streets of Manhattan even more amusing than it already is.  Sidewalks lined with fruit stands are now showcasing pumpkins, butternut squash and green speckled gourds.  On sunny afternoons I love perusing through the farmers booths at the nearby Union Square Green Market.

I couldn’t resist the butternut and acorn squash, perfect for homemade soup on a cold evening tucked inside our cozy apartment.  And what kind of girlfriend would I be if I only served pureed squash for dinner?  So I decided to add some shrimp and applewood smoked bacon to step up the man-points for a hearty meal!

1 butternut squash (skinned and cut)
3 thick-cut slices applewood bacon
1/4 lb. shrimp (peeled and deveined)
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup milk
1 large shallot, diced
4 garlic cloves minced
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
curry powder and nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Slice the top off the acorn squash (save the top for a hat to finish off your dish presentation), scoop out the seeds and place upside down on a shallow dish filled with an inch of water.  Bake in the oven for 35 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the bacon slices in a medium-sized pot (no need to use oil as the bacon releases enough grease).  When cooked to your desired crispiness, remove bacon from pot and save rendered grease.  Crumble bacon into large chunks and set aside.  In the same pan, cook shrimp in the rendered grease (2-3 minutes depending on the size of the shrimp).  Remove shrimp, chop into small pieces and set aside.

  3. On medium heat, saute shallots until translucent.  Add butternut squash and saute until tender (10-15 minutes).  When the acorn squash is done, remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes.  Carefully scoop out the flesh and leave the outer shell intact.  Add the flesh to the butternut squash and saute with garlic for 3 minutes.  Add chicken broth and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer until the squash are soft and mushy.
  4. To puree the mixture, I use our Cuisinart hand mixer while the pan is still simmering on low heat.  After it reaches the same texture as baby food, gradually add milk.  Feel free to add a little more or less to suit your preferred thickness.  Next, remove the pan from the heat and carefully strain the puree into a large mixing bowl. The idea is to remove any excess chunks and achieve a more liquified texture. Place the strained mixture back into the pot and add a few dashes of curry powder and nutmeg, add the shrimp, bacon and mix thoroughly.  Add sprigs of thyme and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Use the remaining shell of the acorn squash for a cute little presentation.  Carefully trim the bottom of the squash so that your bowl will be balanced.  Ladle soup into the two bowls, garnish with some fresh thyme and serve with a side of freshly baked cornbread.

Winter Squash
Fall - under the Tree

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