About a month ago a friend of mine posted a link to a YouTube video called “Happy Asian Thanksgiving.” Like the guys in the video, I also joke about Asian or Japanese versions of holidays. Our 4th of July BBQs featured hamburgers and chicken teriyaki skewers grilled on a hibachi and served with rice (no buns) and cucumber salad. And I can’t imagine a proper Thanksgiving without sesame green beans and a healthy serving of rice to soak up the gravy. Not surprisingly, our Christmas dinners have always featured my Mother’s twists on American standbys. But as we kids have grown up, our celebrations have become simpler. Lately we’ve been gathering on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, and a sushi platter has taken center stage.
This year my Mom decided to make inarizushi stuffed with gingered rice, which is one of my favorites. We also decided on steamed asparagus and a simple salad. I wanted to contribute something homemade and seasonal–but with flavors that would complement the rest of the meal. I quickly imagined a butternut squash soup, pale and sweet with coconut milk, but brightened with hints of ginger, lemongrass, and red chile.
- 1 butternut squash
- 1 shallot
- 1 stalk of lemongrass
- 1 slice of ginger, about the size of 3 quarters stacked
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth (I used a cube of unsalted vegetable stock)
- 1/2-3/4 cups coconut milk
- red chile flakes and salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it is heating slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place in a baking pan with the shallot. Bake for 25-46 minutes, testing the squash after 25 minutes. While the squash is baking, cut a slice of ginger. Slice the ends off of the lemongrass and bruise the stalk (smash it with the flat side of a knife, cut a few slashes in it). Set these aside.
Scoop the baked squash into a dutch oven or stock pot. Peel the shallot and place it in the pot as well. Add 2 cups broth or water, the ginger and the lemon grass, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes. When everything is soft and smelling fragrant, remove the lemongrass and ginger (keep it in the soup for a stronger ginger flavor). Puree the soup–shallots and all–until smooth. I let this cool, packed it up, and finished just before serving.
Finish the soup by adding coconut milk to desired consistency (I used about 2/3 cup). Add salt to taste and red chile flakes for a bit of heat (I used about 1/8th of a teaspoon).