“Potage” is a French word used to describe a soup. While living in France I learned that the term “potage” referred to the type of pureed soup that I’m cooking here. Others call this a “veloute.” Whatever you call it, I find it utterly delicious – showcasing the flavor of whatever vegetable you use – and wonderfully simple to make.
This is my kind of recipe. You don’t have to pay attention to exact quantities or proportions and you can use whatever vegetable you have on hand. You just have to get the concept, and if you do, you can make something superb with very little effort.
I think this recipe is a godsend for anyone who wants to do more cooking from scratch but doesn’t feel up to the challenge of a complicated recipe. It is a great recipe for beginning cooks to learn!
The Back Story
Back in the late ’90s, I spent a few years working as an au pair for an American family who was living in Paris. The family had a cook come to prepare a week’s worth of meals for them every Saturday. In fact, the lady of the house arranged a deal so that she could cook alongside him, learning as she assisted – a brilliant idea. The cook’s name was Philippe, a patient, kind and unassuming soul who created some of the most amazing dishes I had ever tasted in my young life. (I will never forget his avocado sorbet!)
One of the dishes he made every week was a soup, and it was usually a variation of a particular recipe – a potage made quite simply: cook chopped onion in olive oil, add chopped vegetable, cook till soft, add water to level, puree. And voila. Invariably the soup was magnificent.
I don’t remember ever practicing this soup during my au pair days, but somehow it became lodged in my cooking repertoire. I hope you enjoy using this recipe as much as I do.
Winter Squash Potage Recipe
What you’ll need
- one medium onion
- winter squash or pumpkin (a small one or a section of a larger one – I used a medium-sized delicata squash here)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
- sour cream (optional)
- water (or use bone broth for an even more nutritious soup)
- a blender or immersion blender
*Adjust quantities depending on how many people you want to serve. This serves about two people.
This will probably take you about 30 minutes to make. If you substitute a softer vegetable such as asparagus for the winter squash it will go much more quickly.
CHOP the onion.
POUR 1.5 tbsp olive oil into a pot or deep pan.
ADD the onion to the oil.
SWEAT the onions on medium heat, being careful not to brown them. STIR occasionally.
Meanwhile, CHOP your squash into small chunks. If it has a thick skin, peel it first. (I did not peel the Delicata – the final soup had detectable pieces of skin in it, which didn’t bother me, but if serving for guests I would peel first.)
If you’d like to garnish your soup with something (scallions, herbs) RINSE and MINCE those now. Since my onion had sprouted a stalk, I used that for my garnish.
Now your onions should be translucent and soft…
…So, you are ready to ADD the chopped squash to the pot. ADD another 1.5 tbsp of olive oil at the same time.
COVER the pot. STIR occasionally. COOK until soft, again, being careful not to let the squash or the onions brown. I cook on medium for about 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to medium-low. Your stove may be different, however, so keep your eye on it, and lower the temperature if it’s cooking too hot and fast.
When the squash is tender enough to mash with your spoon, REMOVE it from the heat, ADD water up to the level of the vegetables (approximately), and PUREE. You can do this either with a blender or an immersion blender – the latter being easier to clean up.
Now that your soup is pureed, ADD salt to taste – or keep it unsalted and add salt after served.
ADD smoked paprika (optional).
SERVE and GARNISH with scallions, herbs and or sour cream.
You can make so many variations from this recipe. Just replace the winter squash with another vegetable of your choosing. One of my favorites is radish greens. Philippe used to make a fancy two-toned soup by preparing one soup made from radish greens and a second soup prepared from the pink roots of the radishes. When it’s time to serve you ladle them into the bowl at the same time for a lovely ying-yang effect. Definitely, an easy way to impress someone with your culinary skills!
In addition to the radish potage variations, here are some others I enjoy:
- Red pepper
- Carrot and dill
- Pumpkin and ginger
- Pumpkin and peanut butter
- Broccoli topped with bits of bacon
- Zucchini sprinkled with pine nuts
- By keeping the onions and vegetable from browning, you create a very pure flavor and a prettier color. If you end up browning either the onion or vegetable, it will still be tasty, so don’t throw it out. You will notice the “Maillard-y” taste which is good, too. If you prefer it that way, that’s fine! If you want to get that pure taste though, just try to keep it from browning next time by being more attentive or keeping your heat lower.
- Not sure how to dice onions? This is what works best for me. I cut the unpeeled onion in half first lengthwise, with the roots down and stem up. Then I trim off the rooty bit and the stemmy bit. Then I peel both halves. Now, placing an onion half on the cutting board with the cut part facing down, I follow the ridges in the onion to make my vertical cuts. Then I turn the onion sideways and cut across the ridges to create the small squares of onion.
- Since you are blending up both the onion and the vegetables, it doesn’t really matter how nice your chopping or dicing is. However, you do want them to be approximately the same size so they cook at the same rate. If some pieces are a lot smaller than the others they will cook faster and be more likely to brown or burn.