Peanut and Butternut Squash Soup
The state of Virginia is known for producing a variety of foods, from ham to crabs to apples. But perhaps most of all, Virginia is known for peanuts, and along with the abundance of peanuts in Virginia comes peanut soup.
I grew up in Pennsylvania, so I had never even heard of peanut soup before moving to Virginia. Since then I’ve tried peanut soups in restaurants all over the state, from the famous Jefferson Hotel in Richmond to our local diner here in the Shenandoah Valley. Every one of the soups has been delicious, but one in particular really knocked my socks off last Fall. It was a rich, savory peanut soup with so many layers of flavor I couldn’t identify them all. My husband and I agreed. It was, no exaggeration, the best soup we’d ever tasted in our lives. I call it the Best Soup Ever.
Since then, the soup has been taken off the restaurant’s menu. I’ve emailed and emailed to beg for the recipe or even just a hint on how to make it at home. No response. So I finally decided to take a stab at it on my own. I remember that magical soup was a peanut base with butternut squash and chili oil. To make my version I used a classic peanut soup recipe, then added the flavors I was sure were in the original.
My soup has a strong peanut flavor with a kick of red pepper to add some heat. It’s both salty and a little sweet, and very rich and creamy. The butternut squash flavor doesn’t come through as much as I thought it would, but the squash’s sweetness helps balance the saltiness of the peanut butter.
Does it taste exactly like that Best Soup Ever? Sadly, no. However, it is pretty fantastic in it’s own way. Just how fantastic is this soup? After I took the photos for this post, my husband asked for a taste… and then promptly devoured the whole bowl.
Peanut and Butternut Squash Soup
Loosely adapted from the King’s Arms Tavern
Peanut soup is definitely not a light soup – a little goes a long way! A small bowl is perfect for an appetizer or paired with a large salad for a main meal. I buy my butternut squash in a 16oz pre-cubed package from the grocery store. (I’m lazy like that.)
Butternut Squash Puree Ingredients
16 ounces butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken stock or broth
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cups smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup butternut squash puree (above)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
dry roasted peanuts, chopped, for garnish
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Spread the butternut squash pieces in a single layer on the baking sheet. Divide 1 tablespoon of butter into small dabs with your fingers and scatter over squash pieces. Sprinkle with salt. Bake 25-35 minutes, or until squash is easily pierced with a fork.
Meanwhile, saute onion and celery in 2 tablespoons of butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour to form a paste and cook 2 minutes. Pour chicken stock in slowly, whisking to break up clumps. Add red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Strain the stock mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a 4-cup measuring cup or large bowl, pushing on the solids to extract the most flavor. Reserve the extracted solids.
In a food processor or blender, puree roasted butternut squash with about half of the reserved solids until smooth.
Add the soup back to the pot over low heat. Stir in peanut butter, half & half, and butternut squash puree. Whisk until peanut butter is melted and soup is smooth. Whisk in lime juice and brown sugar. Cook over low heat, whisking often and without bringing to a boil, for 5 minutes or until soup is hot and reaches desired thickness.
Garnished with chopped dry roasted peanuts and serve.