over easy

I Ruined This Soup, But I Promise It Wasn’t My Fault

Pre-soup. Photo: Madeleine Aggeler

Over Easy is a weekly food column by a 20-something woman who can barely cook an egg and just wants to learn how to throw together an elegant three-course meal for her friends.

Fall is finally, unequivocally here, thank God. Though I yearn to be a warm-weather, sundress, and tans kind of woman, I know that I am, at my core, a cold-weather person. I feel my best when I’m bundled in 3 to 14 layers of heavy, neutrally colored fabric, like some kind of haunted laundry hamper; when my cheeks are a little flushed from the wind; when my hair is chilled into reluctant submission. Most of all, I love cold-weather food.

During the warm months, so much food is “light!” and “colorful!” It’s often described as “zesty!” — which is too bad, but to each their own. I enjoy a lot of these dishes, but they rarely leave me feeling satiated. A “zesty” salad for lunch? I’ll be hungry an hour later! My favorite meals are hot and copious and beige and filling, and they’re eaten from a bowl, the coziest of all dishware. So, as soon as the temperature in New York City dipped below 50 degrees, I pulled out my array of shapeless sweaters and decided to make soup.

Specifically, I decided to make this Crock-Pot Butternut Squash Soup from Lauren Miyashiro at Delish. Miyashiro said it was the “perfect ‘set it and forget it’ recipe for a busy fall weeknight,” which is exactly when I wanted to make it.

Before I could “set it and forget it” though, according to the recipe, I would need an immersion blender. What is that? I Google Imaged it to find out; they’re the handheld blenders that look like sex toys that you can immerse in food. (Get it?) I did not have one, nor did any of my roommates, nor did the first three people I texted, so I cut them all out of my life, and after work one day, I went to my home away from home, the Bed Bath & Beyond in Tribeca, and bought one. They had them in orange (Tangerine) and puke green (Green Apple) and black (Onyx Black) and red (Rouge Empire). I got a red one, but on the way home I regretted having made such a predictable choice, and wished I had gone with something more daring, like the puke green. Little did I know, the color would be the least disappointing thing about this blender.

Another obstacle in my way was timing — the “set it and forget it” lifestyle, it turns out, is easier said than done, especially on a busy fall weeknight. Miyashiro says you can either cook the ingredients in the Crock-Pot on low for eight hours, or on high for four hours. At first I considered letting the ingredients cook overnight, but then would I end up blending them in the morning, while my roommates were still asleep? How long could the vegetables wait? Also, even though I knew there was almost no chance of it happening, I kept thinking of the This Is Us death Crock-Pot and worrying that my soup would incinerate our apartment while we slept. I settled on working from home one day while the squash cooked on high for four hours, which my dog loved because I let her sit in my lap, and there were new smells for her to enjoy.

Because I did not want to be chopping vegetables first thing in the morning, I prepped the ingredients the night before, peeling and cutting up a butternut squash, a carrot, a large onion, three cloves of garlic, and putting them in my Crock-Pot for the next day. Per Miyashiro’s recipe, I also added a few sprigs of thyme (she suggests three, but I did five because I was too lazy to pull the sprigs apart), one sprig of sage, salt, black pepper, and a pinch of cayenne pepper. The prep was repetitive and soothing, and I spent it listening to the How Did This Get Made? episode about The Meg. Have you heard it? It’s so funny.

The next morning, I poured in three cups of chicken broth like the recipe said, and set my Crock-Pot on high. Four hours later, it was lunchtime, and I was hungry. I excitedly unpacked my new red immersion blender only to discover that — oh my God — it didn’t include the blender’s motor! For a split second, I thought maybe immersion-blender motors are one of those things you’re expected to have in your kitchen, like a saucepan and a junk drawer. But of course that’s not true. Even the box said it was supposed to have a motor. I cursed Bed Bath & Beyond and stared dolefully into my pot of mushy vegetables. This was, truly, the Beyond.

I do have a food processor, but it’s quite small, and I didn’t feel like trying to squish chunks of squash and carrot into it. Then, a little light bulb went off over my head, and in what I thought was a stroke of pure genius, I remembered my hand mixer. That’s basically like an immersion blender! I thought to myself. It is not. While the squash dissolved quickly, the carrots and onions, even softened, stayed intact. So after ten minutes of mixing, I had what looked like a big pot of orange vomit.

Still, it smelled pretty good. I poured myself a chunky bowl, poured some heavy cream on top per Miyashiro’s recommendation, and sat down to eat. The flavor was great — sweet and earthy and homey — but I could barely taste it over the texture. One spoonful, a slimy onion would slither down my throat; the next, a large piece of carrot would stomp through the squash. It was unpredictable and unsettling.

Currently, the Crock-Pot of vomit is still sitting on my oven, waiting for me to blend it into something more edible, which I will, eventually, I think. Do you not believe me about how bad it looks? It looks bad. I didn’t want to make the “finished” soup the main picture up there because I didn’t want to make you ill. Look:

Photo: Madeleine Aggeler

I’m sorry.

My report card
Preparation: F
Taste: B+ I guess? Hard to say.
Sense of betrayal: A+
My Overall Performance: B

I Ruined This Soup, But I Promise It Wasn’t My Fault