I’ve been feeling a little creatively blocked lately when it comes to cooking. Part of this is for financial reasons.
I don’t think people are honest enough about this in the food blog and maker communities: When you are testing out concepts, it gets expensive. Especially if you’re someone who’s gluten-free, and you often need to use multiple types of sometimes-pricey flours.
I work for a nonprofit, so I don’t make a huge salary, and my finances are a little out of whack due to some travel and the fact that I am honestly kind of terrible at budgeting. So it’s been especially hard these days to justify recipe development that falls outside of my uber-cheap meal plan strategy. Eating on the cheap when gluten-free is definitely something I want to cover in future blog posts, but it’s not what feeds me (no pun intended) creatively right now. I mostly want to make like four thousand desserts, but sometimes recipes fail, and the fear of losing money on an unsuccessful recipe attempt has been preventing me from trying out much lately.
This week, if I wanted to post a recipe at all, I had to give myself permission to take a risk with my grocery list. So I went to the farmer’s market.
My favorite types of cooking are the kind where I find the best ingredients, and I improvise. I found winter squash and lump crab meat at the market this week, and that’s how this soup came to be.
And y’all, this is probably the best soup I’ve ever made.
I don’t say that lightly. I’ve been toying with variations on winter squash soup since college, when I fell in love with a recipe for butternut squash soup. It’s kind of my favorite thing.
What I love about this soup is the way it surprises you. It’s not a combination that immediately comes to mind for me, and the flavors are complex without being overbearing. We’re finally having a tiny cold snap in Austin, so hunker down tonight and make this approachable yet slightly decadent treat for yourself tonight.
Apple Cider, Winter Squash, & Crab Soup
Adapted from Epicurious
- 1/2 lb fresh lump crab meat (see instructions to sub out pre-cooked crab meat, if needed)
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp butter
- 1 cup spiced (non-alcoholic) apple cider
- 1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic
- 3 cups diced winter squash such as butternut or acorn
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup water
- 1 bay leaf
- 3/4 cups half and half
- salt and pepper to taste
Pick through the crab meat to find any stray bits of shell or cartilage. Then, in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp butter. Add crab and heat through completely, about three minutes. Set aside. (Note: If using canned or pre-cooked crab meat, skip the cooking step.)
Add 1/2 cup of the apple cider to a large stockpot. Cook over high heat until the cider is reduced to a tablespoon or two. When the cider has reduced, add the remaining 1/4 cup of butter and melt over medium heat. Stir periodically to make sure the cider spices aren't sticking to the bottom of the pan.
After the butter has melted, add the onion. Sauté until soft. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds more, until the garlic is fragrant.
To the stockpot, add the remaining 1/2 cup cider, chicken broth, winter squash, water, the bay leaf, and about a 1/3 of the cooked crab meat. Use the smallest pieces of crab meat here, and set aside the remaining 2/3 of lumpier crab meat for later use. Simmer soup on medium heat for 30 minutes, or until the winter squash can be smashed against the side of the pot with a fork.
When the squash is soft, remove the bay leaf. Add 1/2 cup of the half and half. Puree mixture with an immersion blender, or transfer to a standing blender or food processor, working in batches if needed. Blend until completely smooth.
Return pureed soup to the stockpot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the remaining crab meat. Serve with a swirl of half and half if desired.