winter squash soup with porcini


2 pounds butternut squash (or 1 pound kabocha and 1 pound butternut)
1 oz dried porcini
2 medium bulbs fennel, diced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups diced onions
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 twig of thyme
1 arbol chili
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup sherry
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
salt and pepper

yields 6 servings

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. drizzle the cut side with olive oil, salt and pepper and place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet and roast about 30 minutes or until tender. When it's done, scoop the meat out of the skin and reserve.

While the squash is roasting... In a small bowl, add dried porcini with 3 cups of hot water and let rehydrate until mushrooms are soft and pliable, 30 minutes. Drain mushrooms and reserve the soaking liquid. (You can rinse, drain and chop the mushrooms into small pieces and then fry them with garlic for a crunchy soup topping or save them for another dish.)

Heat a Dutch oven or soup pot over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the butter,
and when it foams, add the onions, fennel, garlic, thyme, chili, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon salt, and a good amount of freshly ground black pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-high, and cook about 10 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are soft, translucent, and starting to color.

Turn the heat back up to high and pour in the sherry. Let it reduce for a minute or
two, and then add the porcini soaking liquid and stock and squash. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer 20-30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf, thyme and chili and blend the soup in batches. Adjust seasoning. You can serve with grated parmesan and/or a dollop of mascarpone and crispy fried porcini pieces.