Amaretto-Kissed Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

No rambling post notes tonight ... letting this recipe for the world's best butternut squash soup do all the talking.

For a dairy version, substitute whole milk, light cream or evaporated milk for the coconut milk, and veggie stock for the chicken.

For an alcohol-free version, substitute 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for the Amaretto and skip the reduction step.

Amaretto-Kissed Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
 This soup can be made ahead up to 3 days.  Soup thickens when chilled, so stir in additional water or coconut milk before reheating just until it barely simmers; do not let boil.

Yield: 4 servings

1 medium-size butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 Tbl. plus 1 tsp. olive oil, divided
1 tsp. kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper, or to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
1/3 cup Amaretto
1 sprig thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
3 cups chicken stock (low-sodium preferred)
1 cup water, plus extra as needed
3 slices firm white bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup canned coconut milk (regular or light), plus a few additional tablespoons for garnish
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds or pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), for garnish

Preheat oven to 450F.

Better to under- than over-singe, I always say.

On a large shallow-rimmed baking sheet, toss squash, carrots and onion with 2 tablespoon of olive oil. Spread out veggies in a single layer. Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until squash and carrots soften and veggies are lightly singed  (hit veggies with the broiler element a few minutes if needed; watch to avoid real burning).

Remove sheet from oven and set aside; if broiler used, switch oven back to 450F.

After about 15 minutes of roasting, place a 6-quart or larger pot over medium heat. When hot, add 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Wait 10 seconds, then add garlic and thyme sprig. Saute continuously for 30 seconds, then carefully pour in Amaretto. Bring to a boil (which will happen quickly). Continue to boil a few minutes until Amaretto is reduced by about half. Stir in stock and water; cover and bring to a slow simmer.

Stir in roasted veggies. Re-cover and return to a simmer. Reduce heat to low; let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until squash and carrots are very soft.

Better to under- than over-brown, I always say.

Meanwhile, toss bread cubes with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Spread out on a small shallow-rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until croutons are golden brown, checking after 5 minutes to avoid burning. Remove pan from oven; transfer croutons to a bowl or dish and set aside.

Better to under- than over- ... I'll stop now.

Remove and discard thyme sprig from soup. Use a hand blender to puree the soup to your liking, or carefully ladle soup into a blender, puree soup then return soup to pot.

Stir in coconut milk. Taste and add additional salt and/or pepper if needed. If soup is too thick, stir in additional water, a 1/4 cup at a time.

Didn't have sliced almonds, which led to the tasty discovery that pepitas work too.

Just before serving, ladle soup into 4 soup bowls.  Garnish with a drizzle of additional coconut milk,  sprinkle with almonds or pepitas and top with croutons.