Putting a local spin on butternut squash soup
By Pam George | Photographs by Scott Nathan
When Max Sopinskyy was growing up in Ukraine, meals were made at home from locally sourced ingredients. “We didn’t go to restaurants for lunches or dinners,” says the native of a small village near the Black Sea. “My mom and grandmom would cook three meals a day for me and my younger brother — every day.”
The family ate seasonal fruit and vegetables from their garden. For a time, they also raised chickens. “I knew how to grow vegetables and how to debone fish or chicken, because everybody around me knew how to do it,” he notes. “I never dreamed about cooking as a career. It was just an everyday activity.”
That changed in 2005 when he came to the United States and got a job as a dishwasher at Fins Fish House & Raw Bar in Rehoboth. Sopinskyy worked his way up the culinary ladder, from line cook to chef. “I was a quick learner in the kitchen,” he says. “I saw what other cooks or chefs were doing.” He also discovered how much he enjoyed working with people from different backgrounds. “I like being a team player.”
Today, Sopinskyy is the executive chef of the Fins Hospitality Group, which has three Fins Ale House & Raw Bar locations along the coast, along with the Fins Fish House & Raw Bar in downtown Rehoboth Beach.
The job suits this team player in more ways than one. “I love working with different types of fish,” he says, noting that he’s particularly fond of oysters — a main attraction at all the Fins locations — and shellfish.
Just about any vegetable or fruit excites him as long as it’s fresh, so at this time of year, using butternut squash to make a creamy, satisfying soup is a natural. The addition of crabmeat is a coastal touch for the soup, and he recommends buying local butternut squash, which are plentiful in Sussex County come fall. He garnishes the soup with sunflower seeds.
Sopinskyy’s style is very much influenced by the coast. “I’ve lived near water all my life,” he says. That’s not likely to change. Fins Hospitality Group is on the fast track and so is his career with the company. “It brings you challenges,” he says, “but it also brings opportunities for development.”
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH CRAB
2 medium-size local butternut squashes
1 tablespoon of butter
¼ cup of yellow onions, diced
⅙ cups of celery, diced
¼ carrot, diced
1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups of heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
6 ounces of jumbo lump crabmeat (or more if you wish, but make sure it’s local!)
Sunflower seeds and fresh herbs of your choice for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash in half, from stem to end, and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place on an oiled sheet pan, skin side up, and roast until tender, about 45 minutes. Cool, scoop out the flesh and discard the skin. Set aside.
Heat the butter in a saucepan. Cook the onion, celery and carrots on medium heat until tender. In a blender, puree the cooked vegetables, including the squash. Return to the saucepan and add stock and cream. (Add as much or as little of the liquid as you like to get the preferred consistency.) Salt and pepper to taste. If you like, add other spices and herbs, such as curry or thyme. Gently fold in the crabmeat, reserving enough for a garnish with fresh herbs.
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