Velvety Winter Squash Soup with Smoky Garlic Custard

In the French countryside, soup is a main event, brought to the table in vintage soup tureens passed down in families. Each element of this winter squash soup—the sunset color, the silky texture, the smoky undertone—evokes winter in the south of France, inspired by Julia Child's kitchen. This is weekend cooking, when you could roast the squash and garlic the evening before, prepare the soup and custard the next day, and stay warm by the fire. Serve this soup with warm, crusty bread to mop up every delicious drop.

a recipe photo of the Velvety Winter Squash Soup with Smoky Garlic Custard served in a bowl
Photo: Ali Redmond
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs

One Bite of This Soup Transports Me Back to Julia Child's Vacation Home in France

Some people come back from their travels with photos and refrigerator magnets. After visiting Julia Child's former summer home in the south of France, known as La Pitchoune (The Little Thing), in 2010, I returned with a recipe.

Julia and her husband, Paul, built the small house in 1963, and it was where they spent summers and as much time in between as they could. When Paul fell ill and their friend and neighbor Simone Beck died, Julia sold the house. American Kathie Alex bought it in 1993.

Almost 20 years later, a group of our four friends settled in at La Pitchoune for a week during the off-season. On the terraced property of Bramafan near Plascassier, just north of Cannes, the olive and pomegranate trees were bare. Wintry winds howled. Night fell quickly, cold and dark. We devised the ideal schedule: exploring nearby towns, markets, and cafes still open during the day and cooking dinner at the house at night.

Julia's kitchen remained pretty much as she had always had it, a warm and cozy beacon. Dark green tiles served as a backsplash, butcher block counters sat atop dark wood cabinets, terracotta-tiled floors beneath. Earthenware pitchers held bouquets of wooden spoons. Skillets, knives and kitchen utensils hung from Paul's precise pegboard. A high open shelf along one wall displayed framed mementos and a soup terrine in the shape of a duck fluffing its tail feathers.

The first chilly morning, we bought warm croissants from the baker in Plascassier and brought them back to devour with dark, rich coffee. Thus fortified, we would set off for the day's adventure around twisty lanes bordered by stone walls. We visited the farmers' market in Cannes where vendors sold heirloom pumpkins and squash by the wedge, bundles of garlic just pulled from the soil, local cheeses and milk. And in a patisserie, rows and rows of rainbow macarons beckoned, a decade before their popularity reached us in America.

Afternoons meant lingering lunches. For one particularly memorable one, the chef prepared everything in a wood-fired oven blazing with chestnut wood, charry and delicious. We visited Grasse, smelling the scent of lavender before we even got to the perfume town. Then, on the way back to La Pitchoune, stopping to shop for local wine and a baguette or two. Finally, there was dinner, cooking and enjoying the meal with friends.

Those experiences came together as the ingredients of this soup. Golden and velvety, it brightens and soothes, just what we need when winter sets in. The color of a setting winter sun or glowing embers, this soup tastes like Julia's kitchen feels. A scoop of delicate savory, smoky custard and a sprinkling of grated Parmesan and chopped chives make every spoonful taste like an adventure, just a little bit different from the previous one.


  • 4 pounds winter squash, such as butternut, halved lengthwise, seeds and fibrous material removed

  • 2 heads garlic

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 3 large leeks, trimmed, sliced lengthwise and rinsed well, white part only finely chopped

  • 5 cups unsalted chicken or vegetable broth, plus more as needed

  • 1 ¾ teaspoons smoked salt, divided (see Note)

  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper, divided

  • 2 cups whole milk

  • 7 large egg yolks

  • Finely grated Parmesan cheese and snipped fresh chives for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat an 8-inch-square baking dish with cooking spray.

  2. Place squash halves, cut-sides down, on the prepared baking sheet. Trim ½ inch from papery ends of garlic heads, so that the tips show; brush with oil. Wrap the garlic heads tightly in foil and place on the prepared baking sheet. Roast until the squash and garlic are tender, 45 to 50 minutes.

  3. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leeks; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

  4. When the squash is done, scoop the tender flesh into the pot (discard the skin). Transfer the garlic to a plate. Reduce oven temperature to 300°.

  5. Add broth to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Puree the soup, in batches, in a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender. (Use caution when blending hot liquids.) Stir in 11/2 teaspoons smoked salt and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper. Keep warm over low heat. (If the soup is too thick, thin it with a little extra broth to reach desired consistency.)

  6. Meanwhile, squeeze the garlic cloves out of the papery skin into a food processor. Add milk, egg yolks and the remaining ¼ teaspoon each white pepper and smoked salt; process until smooth. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a 4-cup measure or medium bowl; pour into the prepared baking dish.

  7. Bake the custard until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes.

  8. To serve, scoop some warm custard into each bowl and pour the warm soup around and over it. Sprinkle with Parmesan and chives, if desired.

To make ahead

Refrigerate roasted squash and garlic (Steps 1-2) for up to 2 days.


Parchment paper


Smoked salt is salt that has been infused with smoke in a smoker. Look for it with other types of salt in well-stocked grocery stores.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

278 Calories
11g Fat
40g Carbs
10g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Serving Size 1 cup soup & 1/3 cup custard
Calories 278
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 40g 15%
Dietary Fiber 6g 21%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 10g 20%
Total Fat 11g 14%
Saturated Fat 5g 25%
Cholesterol 175mg 58%
Vitamin A 25068IU 501%
Vitamin C 55mg 61%
Vitamin D 64IU 16%
Vitamin E 5mg 31%
Folate 108mcg 27%
Vitamin K 20mcg 17%
Sodium 497mg 22%
Calcium 239mg 18%
Iron 3mg 17%
Magnesium 97mg 23%
Potassium 1089mg 23%
Zinc 1mg 9%
Vitamin B12 1mcg 42%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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