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Butternut Squash Soup with Serrano Ham, Smoky Paprika and Cinnamon

In this robustly flavored soup, the natural sweetness of the squash contrasts nicely with the salty, smoky taste of the Spanish ham and paprika.  A stick of Ceylon cinnamon is the bridge between the two, balancing the savory and the sweet with its own aromatic, slightly astringent flavor.  When the cooked squash and other ingredients are whirred in a blender, a transformation occurs:  The soup becomes smooth and rich, as if spoonfuls of cream had been ladled into the pot. 

To serve 6 


1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 stick of Ceylon cinnamon, about 2 inches
2 tablespoons  olive oil
1-1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and chopped
3 cups homemade chicken stock
1-1/2 cups white wine
Kosher salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
 tablespoon chives, minced
2-ounce slice of Serrano ham, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon hot, smoked Spanish paprika
1 small orange


1. In a large saucepan, sauté the onion, garlic and cinnamon stick in the olive oil for 4-5 minutes over medium heat, until the vegetables are soft and the cinnamon releases its fragrance.
2. Add the squash and sauté until it begins to soften, 7-8 minutes.
3. Add chicken stock and white wine and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until squash is very tender, 15-20 minutes.  Remove cinnamon stick.
4. Ladle soup mixture into a blender, in two batches if necessary, and whirr until smooth and creamy.
5. Return to the saucepan over very low heat.  Taste, then add salt and white pepper as desired.
6. Run a microplane over the surface of an orange once or twice and add the grated zest to the soup.  Do not add too much.  There should be just a whisper of orange flavor.  Stir.
7. Ladle soup into individual bowls.  Sprinkle each serving with minced chives, a pinch of smoked paprika, and chopped ham.  Serve hot.

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