WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: Butternut squash soup derives much of its flavor from a wealth of warm spices. For big flavor from the outset, we started by sautéing our squash to coax out some of its natural sugars. Moving on to the spice factor, we landed on another ingredient that packed similar flavors: chai. By steeping a single chai-flavored tea bag with the squash while it simmered, we infused our soup with a melange of warm spice notes. (And our soup doesn’t taste like tea. Really.) To finish, a modest amount of crème fraîche ensured a creamy texture and balanced the warm flavors with a tangy bite.
If you can’t find crème fraîche, substitute heavy cream; do not substitute sour cream.
3 pounds butternut squash
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 chai-flavored tea bag
2 tablespoons crème fraîche, plus extra for serving
1. Peel and seed squash, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Mince scallion whites and slice scallion greens; keep whites and greens separate. Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add squash, scallion whites, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes.
2. Stir in 5 cups water, scraping up any browned bits. Add tea bag. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.
3. Remove tea bag. Working in batches, process soup in blender until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Return soup to clean pot and whisk in crème fraîche. Add extra water as needed to adjust soup’s consistency. Heat mixture gently over low heat until hot (do not boil). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle individual portions with scallion greens before serving.
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