Seasonal soup from Crofton on Wells

November 11, 2009 (CHICAGO) Over the next three Wednesdays, some Chicago chefs are going to share creative, delicious suggestions for completing the Thanksgiving feast. From soup, to salad- and even a seasonal side dish- ABC 7 hopes these experts inspire your holiday table and give guests something a little more interesting than just a can of processed cranberries.

Squash soup is a given for the holidays, but at Crofton on Wells in River North, the idea of a seasonal soup can include more than just butternut or pumpkin.

"It's a comforting thing, you know, the Midwest associated with comfort food, but we like to make it a little more sophisticated than that here. We always have a vegetarian and a vegan soup," said Suzy Crofton, owner of Crofton on Wells.

Crofton's suggestion? A roasted cauliflower and Queensland Blue squash soup, with Shagbark Hickory crème fraiche. Yes, you can make this at home. Crofton just caramelizes some chopped onions, then scoops out that roasted squash into a blender. She blends up the squash, just until its smooth. Back at the pan, she adds some roasted cauliflower to the caramelized onions, along with some vegetable stock - although you could use chicken stock if that's easier. While the stock, cauliflower and onions simmer, Crofton goes to work on the next component.

She whisks some store-bought Shagbark hickory syrup into the creme fraiche, which you could make yourself or buy in the store. A little apple cider vinegar, salt and white pepper round out the seasoning. Now the softened cauliflower and onions are added to the blender with the pureed squash. Once it's all blended, Crofton uses a strainer to make the soup as smooth and silky as possible, but this is certainly not a requirement for home cooks. The final step: heat up some heavy cream and buttermilk, then add the smooth soup to the pot and heat gently to serve.

At the table, you can swirl in the creme fraiche as you wish, and maybe toss in a few freshly-snipped chives.

"I think there should be a little acid to balance the creaminess so its not just a one dimensional, one note flavor, and you know this is a little simpler than something we serve here, but I thing it's really nice for Thanksgiving," said Crofton.

Crofton on Wells
535 N. Wells St.

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