Creamy Butternut Squash Soup with Apple & Fennel

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We’ve reached the end of the season my friends!

And by that I don’t mean we’ve done our last CSA delivery. No no, that happened a couple weeks ago. For us, the end of the growing season means that the garlic has been planted, the tomato trellis taken down, the hoophouse construction finished, and the landscape fabric rolled up. It means all the things that got put together to start the season have been taken back down or taken apart, and that every task that needed buttoning up has been buttoned.

Our employee Julia also had her last day last Thursday. The last day of the last crew member of the season brings what feels like a true ending to this growing season too. Suddenly, after 8 months of managing, there is no one left to manage. It’s just Kyle tidying, winterizing, and fixing, and me doing data entry, selling the last of what’s left in our cooler, and updating marketing materials for the CSA sales period that lies ahead.

It was a truly great growing season. It tried to break us at times, but when we look back at the past decade of farming, we can’t really find a season that hasn’t tried to do that. And at least this year, the farm rewarded us endlessly for all the hard work.

We busted our butts keeping things watered and weeded through an immensely difficult year of drought: a drought many farmers said was the worst they had ever experienced. But our compensation for losing sleep to keep the irrigation running was the most bountiful pepper year we’d ever had, the sweetest carrots we’ve ever grown, the most abundant winter squash, the biggest Brussels sprouts, the best stand of leeks, and outstanding yields of pretty much everything else.

Which then meant we had to bust our butts to keep up with the harvest, hauling in truly unbelievable, unparalleled yields, but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. We’ve had enough years of mediocre yields due to too much rain and disease to ever stress about keeping up with the bounty. That is a true gift.

All that being said, we’re happy the harvest season has ended, giving us space to celebrate birthdays (mine was this past week and my grandma’s birthday celebration was the week earlier), take some local adventures, play with our sweet baby girl, and cook our hearts out for the holidays.

We have three Thanksgivings coming up in a hurry: the first of which is actually tomorrow. I’m incredibly excited and planning to bring three dishes to every celebration for a grand total of nine new recipes prepared for the most delicious holiday of the year.

Actually, we’re bringing my Baked Mashed Potatoes with Leeks to two Thanksgivings so I guess that’s only seven new recipes and one glorious repeat. If you’re still planning your own holiday menus, allow me to inspire you. Here’s what I’ll be making:

Thanksgiving #1: Baked Mashed Potatoes with Leeks, Green Beans and Mushrooms with Crispy Shallots, and Winter Squash Agrodolce

Thanksgiving #2: Baked Mashed Potatoes with Leeks, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Gochujang Brown Butter, (we didn’t have any gochujang on hand and substituted cherry bomb hot sauce instead and HOLY HECK it was amazing), and a kale salad (probably this Kale Salad with Pecan Vinaigrette, but maybe this Warm Winter Salad my friend Beth developed for my Edible Madison column)

Thanksgiving #3: Stuffing Biscuits, whichever kale salad I didn’t make for Thanksgiving #2, and one recipe that is yet to be determined based on what some random person on Instagram makes that really speaks to me OR a wheel of Rush Creek Reserve

So that is what will be consuming my next nine days: a whole lot of lovely, cozy, it’s almost winter cooking and laughter around tables with the people I love. Well, that and hiding out in the Driftless with Lilly and my Carrot family while my Carrot sits alone in the woods outside his parents’ house for days on end not really caring if he gets a deer or not.

It’s actually my first time joining my Carrot for hunting season and honestly, I’m into it. My Carrot will hang out in nature all day (his happy place). I’ll read and run and cook and watch Christmas movies with his mom and Lilly all day (my happy place). And we’ll all get together for good food and games each night.

I hope your next week is filled with equal amounts of relaxation, good food, family, and cheer.

And if you don’t really care about all this Thanksgiving hoopla and prefer to skip the turkey, and just happily devour something seasonal and simple instead, I have the perfect recipe for you.

To me, this butternut squash soup made with butter, shallots, fennel, apple, and maple syrup tastes exactly like this season should: warm, rich, comforting, vibrant, sweet, and fragrant. It has all the flavors of fall, Thanksgiving, and the Wisconsin harvest season wrapped into one creamy bowl. I adore it and could eat it all season long. Enjoy my friends. And have an absolutely beautiful weekend.

-Leek

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH APPLE & FENNEL

Takes 1 hour, 15 minutes
Serves 6-8

2 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, minced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 apples, cored and diced
2 tablespoons maple syrup
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups water
½ cup half and half

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Drizzle canola oil onto a large baking sheet. Add butternut squash to pan, skin side up. Roast in preheated oven for 45 minutes or until squash flesh is easily pierced with a fork and skin is browned.
  3. In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium low. Add shallots, fennel, and salt. Sauté for 10 minutes until fragrant and softened. Add apples and maple syrup. Sauté over until softened and caramelized, 15-20 minutes. If it starts to get too browned, just turn the burner as low as it goes and let it keep cooking until the squash is done roasting.
  4. Once the squash is done roasting, scoop the flesh into your soup kettle. Add chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes before pureeing with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in half and half.

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