Araxi is a culinary cornerstone in the heart of Whistler Village, British Columbia. Not only is the restaurant wrapped by stunning mountain vistas, but Executive Chef James Walt is as close to nature as they come. He celebrates carefully sourced local ingredients from nearby Pemberton Valley farms, as well as his own garden. The main ingredient for one of his superb soup recipes comes directly from his backyard.
Serves 6 as an appetizer, 12 as an amuse-bouche (Yields 10 cups/2.5 L)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 shallots, sliced
5 lbs butternut squash (about 2 small), peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 Tbsp pumpkin seed oil
2 Tbsp toasted pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp chopped chives
In a large saucepan fitted with a lid, heat the butter on medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Add the squash and lightly season with salt and white pepper. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the squash is very soft.
Heat the chicken (or vegetable) stock in a medium pot on medium heat. Once the squash is very soft, pour enough hot stock over the squash to cover it by about 1 inch/2.5 cm. Simmer the squash mixture for 5 minutes, then add the Parmesan cheese and the nutmeg and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove the soup from the heat, transfer to a blender and pureé until smooth or use a handheld blender. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl and discard any solids. Stir in the cream and season with more salt, if necessary.
Pour the soup into 16 small espresso cups or ladle it into 6 bowls. Drizzle each serving with pumpkin seed oil, and top with pumpkin seeds and chives.
Photo credit: John James Sherlock