French Kicks

Vincent Francoual, the chef and owner of downtown Minneapolis’s Vincent, warms up winter with this recipe for creamy butternut-squash soup

Since it opened on Nicollet Mall in 2001, Vincent Francoual’s eponymous French restaurant has offered an inventive menu, an elegant setting, and lunch and happy-hour specials that are among the best values in the metro.

So why aren’t we singing his praises at every opportunity? Well, it seems that we’ve grown so comfortable with Francoual that we’ve taken him for granted. In return, what does the former mentee of Le Bernardin’s Eric Ripert want to do? Make us even more comfortable.

To comfort our wallets, Francoual and his team at Vincent are planning a $40 weeknight cassoulet dinner for two. (The hearty dish is native to southern France, like the chef himself.) And to comfort our bodies (and spirits), he has offered to share his recipe for creamy butternut squash soup. “This soup just warms your body up,” explains Francoual. “With the flavor and the creaminess and the consistency, it fits very well with the climate in Minnesota.”

Butternut-Squash Soup

Serves 6

1 large (or 3 pounds) squash
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
1 quart vegetable stock (or water)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash, cut-side down, on a sheet pan with a little bit of water. Roast at 375 degrees until soft, at least 35 minutes. Let cool and scoop out the flesh. In a stock pot, melt the butter and add the onion, cooking slowly until soft. Add the squash flesh. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Add the stock and cream and simmer for 30 minutes. Purée in a blender (you will get a better result in a cocktail blender). Check seasoning and consistency, adding more liquid if necessary. For extra flavor, garnish with crumbled blue cheese.