Adapted from The Spirited Vegetarian: Over 100 Recipes Made Lively with Wine and Spirits, by Paulette Mitchell.
Drink Recommendations: "Creamy" and "sweet" are the key factors in this dish, which incline one to pair it with a contrasting taste, such as the crisp acidity of a Sauvignon Blanc, the sharp hoppiness of an American-style pale ale or the dryness of a moderately smoky Speyside single malt, diluted with spring water to about 50 proof.
1 two-pound butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
Walnuts, chopped, for garnish
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 Bartlett pears, peeled, cored and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
4 cups vegetable stock
1¼ cup half-and-half
3 tablespoons Cognac or other brandy
1-¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
1-¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Walnuts, toasted and chopped, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the squash halves, cut side down, on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool and remove pulp with a spoon. You should have about 2 cups.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until the nuts jut begin to color and become fragrant, watching them carefully so they don't burn. Remove from the oven and transfer to a bowl to cool.
Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pear and onion, cooking until tender, about 10 minutes. Add curry powder and stir constantly for about 30 seconds.
Stir in squash pulp and vegetable stock. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.
Purée the soup with an immersion blender or, working in batches, transfer it to a blender and blend until smooth. If you've used a blender, return the soup to the pot. Stir in the half-and-half, Cognac, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is warmed through, taking care not to let the soup boil. Add salt and pepper to taste if necessary. Serve in soup bowls garnished with walnuts.