Butternut Squash and Leek Soup with Gruyere Pesto Toasts
Pairs Well With
Serves 4 as an entree, 6 as a first course
For the soup:
4 pounds butternut squash
— Oil for oiling the sheet pan
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
6 ounces sliced Canadian bacon, medium chopped
3 cups thinly sliced white part of leek (about 3 large leeks)
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
— Kosher salt and black pepper
For the toasts:
12 ½ -inch thick slices French baguette cut on the bias
3/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, finely shredded
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, coarsely chopped
2 ounces coarsely grated Gruyere cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 ounce finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about ¼ cup grated on a microplane)
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Working carefully, halve the squash lengthwise and arrange it cut-side down on a lightly oiled parchment-lined rimmed sheet pan. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven, until very tender, 60 to 75 minutes.
While the squash is baking, in a large saucepan or a Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat, add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until it is golden brown at the edges, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer the bacon with a slotted spoon to a bowl, leaving as much of the fat as possible in the pan.
Add the remaining tablespoon butter and the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are very tender and starting to color, about 6 to 8 minutes.
If the squash is not ready, take the pan off the heat and set it aside. When the squash is tender, remove it from the oven, turn it over and let stand until cool enough to handle. Discard the seeds and scoop out the flesh.
Combine half the squash with 1/2 cup water in a food processor and puree until very smooth. Add to the saucepan with the leeks and bacon. Repeat the procedure with the remaining squash and another 1/2 cup water and add to the saucepan, along with the chicken broth.
Bring the liquid to a simmer. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and additional water if necessary to thin the soup to the desired consistency.
Make the toasts: Arrange the French baguette slices on a sheet pan and when the squash has come out of the oven, bake the slices on the middle shelf until they are slightly golden, turning them, 2 to 3 minutes a side.
In a bowl combine all the remaining ingredients. Right before serving the soup, divide the mixture among the toasts and bake them until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 5 minutes.
To serve: Ladle the soup into soup bowls and top each portion with some of the hot toasts.