Friday, November 18, 2011

A French Inspired Lunch at the Omni and a Recipe to Go: Butternut Squash Soup with Frangelico

About a week ago I was invited by Barb of Creative Culinary to join her for lunch at the Meritage Restaurant in the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield, Colorado. The hotel’s Executive Chef David Harker along with forty-four other Omni chefs and culinary leaders had recently returned from a discovery trip to France and were ready to unveil their new menu, and we were more than happy to be their guinea pigs.

On the menu were some selections from their “Simmer Saute Sante the Flavors of France” feature which is now being offered at most of their locations. Expecting to briefly meet Chef Harker and his staff and then to be left to ourselves, Barb and I were pleased to learn that he would not only be preparing our entree at our table, but would also be staying with us to explain each course to us as it was presented.

Our lunch started off with grilled flatbread with black garlic and fig puree and topped with French Roquefort and grilled apples, served with micro greens . . . divine. After licking our plates, we were presented with a bowl of butternut squash bisque accented with Frangelico. I must admit that I am not a huge butternut squash lover, but the slightly nutty flavor of the hazelnut liqueur was a delicious compliment to the sweetness of the butternut squash, making this one of my favorite dishes of the luncheon.



As if things could possibly get any better, we were then served a decadent buttery serving of foie gras on a crispy toast round with fruit.  No matter how you feel about it, foie gras holds a prominent place in French cuisine and I do know why, because this was delicious.  Next we were served the entrée that Chef Harker had been preparing this entire time, New York Strip Steak with Sauce au Cognac et Poivre Noir. This incredibly tender and juicy prime steak was served with a sampling of crispy duck confit served with roast potatoes and vegetables. Shall I say it again? Divine!



To finish this wonderful meal, we were served an assortment of delicate sweets including absolutely perfect French macarons and a silken pot de crème. Top this with a huge latte and impeccable service and someone could have stuck a fork in us because we were done and totally spoiled. Thank you Chef Harker, your staff and the Omni Interlocken for a completely delightful afternoon.



If you'd like to sample these dishes for yourself, this special menu and two overnight packages are available until the end of the year. The “Simmer Sauté Santé” package will offer guests at select hotels and resorts an exclusive culinary immersion weekend. The “French Toast!” package that is offered only over New Year’s Eve, enabling guests to enjoy an authentic French dinner with Champagne to celebrate the New Year, breakfast with a Champagne cocktail and a late check-out on request. Both packages range from $299 to $700. For availability, menus and more information please click here.

If you can’t make it to the Omni for a special meal yourself, the culinary team was kind enough to forward the squash bisque recipe on to me to make at home. Totally easy to make and really budget friendly, this soup will give you a bit of simple luxury anytime in your own kitchen.  Even if you can’t serve it with foie gras, I am here to tell you from experience that it is also fabulous with a chicken salad sandwich.



Butternut Squash Bisque with Frangelico


1 medium size butternut squash (approximately 3 pounds)

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons golden raisins

4 cups chicken broth

1/4 cup cream

1/3 to 1/2 cup Frangelico liqueur (depending on your preference)

1 pinch nutmeg

Salt and pepper to taste



Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Wash squash well. Split down the middle lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and pulp, transfer to a bowl and set them aside.

In each squash cavity, place half of the raisins and half of the butter. Turn the squash cavity side down in a large baking dish (This is what the recipe said and a real trick at that, but it can be done. Just don’t worry if half your raisins spill out, it will be ok). Pour 1 cup of the chicken broth over the squash. Cover and place in the preheated oven. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until it is fork tender.

Remove the squash from the oven and cool. Scoop out the pulp from the squash shells and transfer to a large saucepan. Place the squash shells, raisins and the liquid from the baking dish in a large pot with the remaining chicken stock; simmer covered over low heat for approximately 20 – 30 minutes.  Ok, don't anyone tell Chef Harker I said this, but at this point if you don't have any Frangelico, you could substitute it by stirring in a tablespoon or so of peanut butter towards the end of the cooking time.  It won't taste exactly the same but pretty close.

Strain squash shell broth into the saucepan with the pulp; puree with an emersion blender or in the bowl of a countertop blender. Return to the saucepan and add the cream and Frangelico. Place back over medium heat and reheat to piping hot. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with a drizzling of cream, crème fraiche or sour cream. If using cream, beat just a bit to thicken so it floats on the top instead of sinking. The taste is the same, it is just prettier.

Makes approximately 6 cups which easily serves 4



Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone!
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