A few days ago my family picked up some fresh boiled crabs for dinner. I didn’t want to toss the shells, as they were still full of crab fat, the yellow “mustard”, and tons of crab flavor. I made a crab stock and used it for a crab-boil version of butternut squash soup, and it turned out delicious! The crab stock was spicy, but perfect when blended with creamy and sweet butternut squash. If you don’t have access to fresh boiled crabs, you can boil your own with a pack of cajun seasoning (like Zataran’s). Then you can either eat the crabs straight away, or pick out the meat and save it to top your soup (this takes some restraint).
Cajun Butternut Squash Soup, serves 8 as an appetizer or 4-5 as a main
Shells and claws from 6 six crabs after they have been boiled in cajun seasoning
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. black peppercorns
1 1/2 cups sliced fennel
1 1/2 cups sliced onion
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed into 1″ pieces
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 lb fresh lump crab meat
1 baguette (optional)
Put the crab shells in a large pot and fill with water. I used about 14 cups. Add the bay leaves and peppercorns. Bring the water to a boil, reduce and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the stock is dark and flavorful. Stir occasionally. Strain the stock and reserve (you can also make this ahead of time and freeze).
Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fennel, and cook for about 7-8 minutes, or until they are soft and begin to brown. Scrape off any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the butternut squash and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes. Add 4 cups of the crab stock, bring to a boil, and simmer over medium heat for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is easily pierced with a fork. If the stock does not cover all of your squash, you can add a little more.
Blend the soup with an immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender (they are very handy), you can transfer the contents into a standard blender. Blend until smooth. The soup will be very thick. Add additional crab stock and cream until the soup is the consistency and flavor you want. I added an additional 2 cups of crab stock and 1 cup of heavy cream. Season generously with salt and pepper. Remove from heat.
Serve the soup warm with a spoonful of fresh lump crabmeat on top, and a toasted baguette slice.