The anise gives this soup an unusual and delicious flavor. The shrimp are amazing, but the soup would also be great without them, for those of us who don't eat things that once had legs :)
24 large shrimp (about 1 lb), peeled, deveined
1 tablespoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
2/3 cup chopped shallot
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
3 whole star anise
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 3/4 lb butternut squash
6 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Slice the squash in half, and scoop out seeds. Roast in a 450 degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until it's soft and a fork slides in easily.
If including shrimp: toss shrimp with ginger in a bowl and marinate, chilled, 30 minutes (do not marinate any longer or enzymes from ginger will begin to cook shrimp).
Make soup while shrimp marinate:
Cook shallot, garlic, and anise in butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until shallot is softened, about 5 minutes. Scoop out the inside of the roasted squash and add to soup, along with the broth. Simmer about 15 minutes. Remove star anise.
Purée soup in 2 batches in a blender until very smooth, about 1 minute per batch, then transfer to cleaned pan and keep warm, covered.
Sprinkle marinated shrimp with salt. Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté shrimp in 2 batches, stirring, until just cooked through, about 3 minutes per batch, transferring to paper towels.
Bring soup to a simmer and season with salt and pepper. Divide among 8 shallow soup bowls and mound 3 shrimp in each bowl.