French Style Winter Squash Soup with Gruyère Croutons

Serve with a lightly chilled rosé for an exceptional first course.



1/4 cup butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups chicken broth
4 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into 1 inch cubes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
4 cups peeled acorn squash, cut into 1 inch cubes(about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/4 teaspoons finely minced fresh thyme
1 1/4 teaspoons finely minced fresh sage
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


1/4 cup butter, melted
12 1/2-inch-thick baguette bread slices (francese)
1 cup grated Gruyère cheese
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme, minced finely
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh sage
Salt and freshly ground pepper


For soup:

Melt butter in large stock pot over medium heat. Add chopped onions and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes.

Add broth, butternut and acorn squash and herbs; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until squash is very tender, about 20 minutes.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender. Return soup to pot.

Stir in cream and brown sugar; bring to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

For croutons:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Brush butter on 1 side of each bread slice. Arrange bread, buttered side up, on baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 7-10 minutes.

Turn bread slices over. Sprinkle cheese evenly over each piece of bread, then sprinkle thyme and sage over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Turn on broiler. Broil until cheese melts and the tops are toasted and golden, about 1 minute.

Ladle soup into bowls. Top each with a cheese croutons and serve.

YIELD: Serves 8.

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