So I had some butternut squash laying around in the fridge the other day and my wife asked me to make some soup with it. Now before I go any further, let me explain something. My wife is a butternut squash bisque connoisseur… If we go to a restaurant and it’s on the menu, she orders it, every single time, and let’s just say we eat at some pretty damn good restaurants. What I’m getting at is that the competition here is stiff. I couldn’t just whip up a simple bisque and expect to wow her, I needed to take it to another level so I could even begin to compete with the soups she’s had. But what to do? I looked back in the fridge and noticed that I still had some really beautiful sweet corn on the cob and fennel bulb, and then it struck me… Butternut Squash Bisque with a Crab, Corn & Fennel Salad. Now THAT is taking it to the next level!
Serves 4 as an entrée or 6-8 as an appetizer.
4c Butternut Squash, diced
2tbsp Olive Oil
1 1/2c Sweet White Wine
4c Chicken Stock
1c Heavy Cream
1tsp Ground Black Pepper
1tsp Granulated Sugar
2tbsp Unsalted butter
Ingredients (crab salad):
1/2lb Jumbo Lump or Lump Crabmeat
2 Cloves Garlic, chopped
1/4c Shallot, chopped
1c Fennel Bulb, sliced
1/4c Fresh Parsley, chopped (+more for garnish)
1tsp Ground Black Pepper
2tbsp Unsalted Butter
In a large sauce pot heat the olive oil at medium high. Add the butternut squash and 1tsp of salt, sauté for 10 minutes to lightly brown the edges. Increase the heat to high and add the white wine, simmer until reduced by half. Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring periodically. Using a hand emulsifier, food processor, or blender, puree the butternut squash & stock mixture until blended smooth. Return it to the sauce pot and add the heavy cream, 1tsp salt, black pepper, paprika and sugar and stir together well. Simmer uncovered on medium low for an additional 20 minutes. Stir in the butter in the last few minutes to give the soup richer flavor and a silky sheen.
Once you have the bisque in its final simmer you can work on the crab salad, because it only takes about 10 minutes to make.
Melt the butter in a sauté pan at medium heat and add the garlic, shallot, fennel and salt. Sauté on medium until the vegetables start to sweat, 3-5 minutes. Add the corn and continue to sauté on medium heat for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from heat then toss in the crab and parsley. Keep at room temperature until ready to serve.
Before serving the soup check the seasoning to make sure it’s to your liking, add more salt or pepper as desired.
Spoon the crab salad into the center of your bowls then ladle the bisque around it, and finish it all off with a sprig of parsley for garnish.
There you have it, a delicious, decadent, over the top restaurant quality bisque that is easy to make and is most certainly going to impress your significant other, family and friends! I know it impressed my wife, and like I said up top, with this particular dish that is not easy to do…
Alright, now let’s talk wine pairings. There have been times in the past where I’ve paired a light bodied red, like Gamay, with butternut squash bisque… However, with the inclusion of the crab I would have to strongly recommend against it and say that you want to do a medium to full bodied white or a dry/off-dry sparkler. When I made this dish I paired it with a Blanc de Blancs Champagne, and it was perfect (no pun intended… ok, maybe a little). Below are a few wines I would recommend… Oh, and considering the fact that you’ve already spent the farm on lump crabmeat, don’t go cheap on the wine. You need to treat yourself once in a while.
Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut NV, Champagne, France – Both the Larmandier and Bernier families have been producing wines in Champagne since the late 18th century, but the they did not come together until a marriage joined them in 1971. Their Latitude cuvee is quite interesting in the fact that it is 100% Chardonnay, but the vineyards utilized are located in a region of the Côte des Blancs just below Vertus, where the primary varietal grown is Pinot Noir. The wine expresses a touch of berry fruit on the palate, exhibiting some undeniable Pinot-esque characteristics. In the glass is a medium bodied wine with pale straw color and moderate effervescence. The bouquet is extraordinarily aromatic, with hints of grapefruit pith, fennel frond, green apple and sourdough. On the pallet the wine is quite intense, with distinct impressions of crunchy minerality, salinity and a slight yeasty nature, all layered beautifully with nuances of apple, berry, clover honey and dried herbs. PP Score: 91 (Retail $48-55) *Certified Biodynamic
Trapet Gewurztraminer Beblenheim, Alsace, France – Domaine Trapet was established in 1870 in Gevrey-Chambertin, and over the past century plus have proven themselves to be one of the top producers in this prestigious appellation. In 1993 the newest Trapet generation took over, under the guidance of Jean-Louis Trapet, and he seamlessly continued on with the family’s impeccable reputation. While Jean-Louis’s family had holdings in Burgundy, his wife’s family owns vineyards in Alsace and he decided it would be interesting to produce some wines from their vineyards as a fun little side project. So here we have the Gewurztraminer from their holdings in the Beblenheim Vineyard. I would rate the wine as a demi-sec (semi-dry), while there is residual sugar there is still a nice balancing acidity. On the palate you’ll find notes of lychee, mango and meyer lemon, with very subtle minerality in the mid-palate and finish. This one will likely be difficult to find with only 400 cases made per vintage, but it’s worth the search! PP Score: 91 (Retail $18-22) *Practicing Biodynamic
Domaine Huët Vouvray Demi-Sec Le Haut-Lieu , Loire, France – Domaine Huët is the most storied name in Vouvray. The winery was founded by Victor Huët in 1928 and immediately established itself as the standard bearer of the appellation. While a number of producers in recent years have made a go at Huët’s title, no one has been able to wrest it from them. They are simply the best (cue Tina Turner). Their Demi-Sec from the Haut-Lieu vineyards is almost life changing, yeah, that good. The wine is medium to full bodied, with subtle notes of citrus zest, white peach, honeysuckle and crushed granite framed with a perfect harmony of citrus acidity and honeyed sweetness. Only 1,500 cases are made per vintage but despite this fact there is pretty strong distribution of the wine throughout the US and you should be able to get your hands on a bottle. Or, as I would recommend, buy every one you can find! Another beauty of this wine is that it can be laid down for another 15-20 years, and it should only get better! PP Score: 94 (Retail $34-40) *Certified Biodynamic
Peirson Meyer Chardonnay Charles Heintz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast, California – Peirson Meyer is the brain child of Alan Peirson and Robbie Meyer, two men who were instrumental in making Peter Michael what it is today. It is almost unfair to them to mention that, as they are extremely well regarded in their own right and they produce beautiful wines, but the value and allure of that pedigree cannot be denied and it’s something readers should be aware of. Their 2011 Charles Heintz Chardonnay is simply stunning. In the glass is a medium to full bodied wine of golden hue, think a summer sunset over Belgrade Lake in Maine. The bouquet is redolent with aromas of honeysuckle, citrus zest, dried herbs and hints of brioche. On the pallet the wine is rich, exhibiting notes similar to that of the bouquet, with moderate density balanced by subtle acidity and nuances of crushed rock, preventing the wine from becoming sappy. I will repeat, this wine is stunning. PP Score: 93 (Retail $54-62) *Only 400 cases produced
So there you have it, my recipe and some wines that I recommend to pair with it. I hope you enjoyed the read, will make the soup and try the wines. I guarantee you’ll love it, I know we did! As always new content is coming soon. In the meantime pop open a bottle of champagne, sit back, and relax. You don’t always need a special occasion for Champagne, sometimes the bottle itself IS the special occasion! Life is short, enjoy it.