In any case, this creamy soup is a family favorite. The sweet, nutty flavor of the squash perfectly complements the smoky bits of ham. It’s a rich, warm dish that is surprisingly filling. I’m not one to serve an array of side dishes with dinner (I’m not that coordinated) so I rely on filling and nutritious main dishes with just a couple of simple things on the side. For example, I often round out a meal with a side of steamed vegetables, maybe some fresh fruit, and some homemade bread. I served this soup a couple nights ago with fresh, homemade whole wheat rolls. They looked and smelled enticing. It was slightly devastating when I tasted a hot roll only to discover I had committed a cardinal sin of bread-making. I forgot the salt. In case you’ve never had bread without salt, I will inform you now that it is not good. Very, very not good.
Not wanting to let 24 homemade rolls become a complete waste, the four of us went on an excursion this morning. My son had suggested that we “feed the birds.” So, we headed to the local “nature park” (it’s actually a sewage treatment area…but that’s not a good subject for a food blog) to feed the gaggle of ducks and geese that live at the, ahem, pond. Well, we pulled up and parked, with our sack of lovely saltless rolls at the ready, only to discover a new feature in the park. It was a duck-food dispenser, something that had not been there previously. It bore signs reading “Please DON’T feed the ducks bread. It is the duck equivalent of junk food and leads to excessive weight gain, malnutrition, and other problems.” Apparently I’m guilty of unknowingly playing McDonald’s to ducks my whole life. So, we popped a quarter in the machine and let our son throw little pellets to the ducks, and the salt-deprived rolls have returned to their sorry position on the kitchen counter.
If you decide to serve homemade rolls with this lovely bisque, may your bread be better than mine. If it isn’t, don’t even think about giving it to any fast-food-enslaved ducks.
How to Roast a Winter Squash
You can use any winter squash with a rich, orange flesh for this bisque. Butternut is usually the easiest to find at grocery stores, but my personal favorite is buttercup, if you can find it. I’ve seen it at produce stands, farmer’s markets, and occasionally in stores. It has a more subtle flavor than butternut and the flesh is perfectly creamy, akin to a mashed potato texture, rather than having fibers like the flesh of butternut squash.
Preheat the oven to 350 *. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with cooking spray.
Cut your squash, or squashes, in half and place the halves cut side down on the sheet. If you don’t have a knife that cuts through a raw squash easily, you might try this method from Alaska from Scratch for roasting a squash whole. Bake until the squash is easily pierced, with soft flesh. The time will depend on the size and variety of squash. Mine typically take 45-70 minutes to roast.
Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff from the center of the squash. Then scrape the soft squash-flesh off of the peel and into a bowl or measuring container. If you are using this for Winter Squash and Ham Bisque, you don’t need to blend it or mash the squash at this point because you will blend the entire soup near the end of the recipe. If you want to keep the squash for something else, you may want to blend it into a smooth puree. Then place it in freezer bags or containers and freeze for later use.
If you want to skip the cutting and scraping steps with the squash in this recipe, you can buy a bag of pre-cut squash, toss it with a drizzle of oil and roast it at 350* for 30 minutes or until soft, then proceed with the recipe. You could also skip the roasting step entirely and add the cut squash with the potatoes, boiling till soft. The only drawback to this is that you lose the roasted flavor dimension.
- 2 TBS canola oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- ½ tsp dried rosemary, crushed
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 5 cups winter squash
- 1 cup potatoes, diced (about 1 medium russet)
- 1 tsp. salt
- ½ cup evaporated milk
- 1 ½ cups ham, fully cooked and diced (preferably a smoked variety)
- 1 TBS sugar
- ½ tsp. curry powder
- ¾ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and rosemary and stir to coat onions with oil. Partially cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute.
Add broth, squash, potatoes, and salt to the pot. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are very soft. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to blend the soup until smooth, or transfer to a blender and process in batches.
Add the evaporated milk, ham, sugar, curry powder, cinnamon, and black pepper. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. If soup has cooled, return to heat until warmed through, stirring occasionally. Serves 8-10.