2 tablespoons olive oil
1½ pounds peeled and seeded butternut squash , cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large onion, cut into large dice
1 tablespoon butter
1 pinch sugar
3 large garlic cloves, thickly sliced
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 cups chicken broth, homemade or from a carton or can
1½ cups half-and-half (or whole milk)
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, deep sauté pan until shimmering. Add butternut squash, then onion; sauté, stirring very little at first, then more frequently, until squash start to turn golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes.
Reduce heat to low and add butter, sugar and garlic; continue cooking until all vegetables are a rich spotty caramel color, about 10 minutes longer.
Add cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cayenne pepper; continue to sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute longer. Add broth; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until squash is tender, about 10 minutes.
Using an immersion blender or traditional blender, puree until very smooth, 30 seconds to 1 minute. (If using a traditional blender, vent it either by removing the lid’s pop-out center or by lifting one edge of the lid. Drape the blender canister with a kitchen towel. To ’clean’ the canister, pour in a little half-and-half, blend briefly, then add to the soup.)
Return to pan (or a soup pot); add enough half-and-half so the mixture is souplike, yet thick enough to float garnish.
Taste, and add salt and pepper if needed.
Heat through, ladle into bowls, garnish and serve.