I rarely try to mimic restaurant dishes. The fear of falling short of that first delectable bite while in excellent company always outweighs the desire to repeat such an enjoyable meal. The daily soup at the Lula Lounge a few weeks back, however, got the best of my curiousity about whether I could rival it at home.
It was a roasted garlic and potato soup – perfectly smooth and creamy, but not in an overly heavy way. I’ve swapped the potato for butternut squash in this version, which adds an even deeper complexity to the sweetness of the dish.
Perhaps I simply wanted to recreate that night through any medium possible. The show that evening was a performance by Symphronica, a jazz orchestra led by the masterful Ron Davis. (For the record: jazz violin =seriously underrated). They played a variety of arrangements from deconstructed jazz standards to a classically-inflected Bach riff. And joining them was the one and only George Elliott Clarke, currently the poet laureate of Canada’s Parliament, along with his cousin Shelley Hamilton, a powerhouse of a jazz singer. Joining forces, the performance was an effortlessly flowing oscillation between read and improvised poetry, soulful crooning, and all-out jamming between lyrics, prose and music. A really unexpected treat was Shelley’s performance of two songs from Clarke’s seldom-produced opera about Margaret Trudeau!
The program found a perfect harmony between its disparate elements, facilitated undoubtably by the open spirit of collaboration and playfulness by all the artists involved. It all ended too quickly—and in a very slight haze as I finished a second martini, if I’m being completely honest—but I will never forget Clarke’s rhyme-on-the-fly, “Down with Donald Trump. Throw him in the dump.” It was backed by bass, electric guitar, four violins, a full drum kit, and piano. I do believe he even syncopated it.
May this soup, with its richness resulting from the carmelized garlic and squash, bring you back to a luscious evening of your own.
Roasted Garlic & Butternut Cream Soup
- 2 heads of garlic
- 6 Tbls olive oil, divided
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 4 cups diced butternut squash
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup cooking cream
- 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Slice the top off of each garlic head to reveal the flesh of the cloves. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over each head, and firmly wrap each one in aluminum foil. Set aside.
Toss butternut squash with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil – just enough to lightly coat – and season generously with salt and pepper. Spread out squash on a large, parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Avoid stacking pieces on top of each other to ensure they roast evenly. If you can find a bit of extra room on the baking sheet, nestle the foil-wrapped heads of garlic in there too. Otherwise, place them in a small baking dish that can fit inside the oven with the squash. Cook for approximately 25 minutes, taking the squash out of the oven halfway through to turn the pieces over.
While the squash and garlic roast, warm the remaining olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions, bay leaf and peppercorns and cook, stirring, until onions are translucent.
When the squash is beginning to brown, and the garlic is tender and starting to carmelize, remove both from oven and unwrap the garlic. As soon as the garlic is cool enough to handle, use a small spoon to remove each clove of garlic from its peel.
Add squash and garlic to the pot, cooking for two minutes to combine flavours, then add in the stock and bring to boil.
Quickly reduce heat, and simmer for another ten minutes to allow the squash to soften even more.
Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Slowly pour in cream while blending. Add in additional cream if you prefer it to be thinner and season to taste with salt and pepper.