Hearty soups with seasonal ingredients can be warm and comforting on a cold, autumn night. This Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Bacon from “Fine Cooking Soups & Stews” features finely chopped fresh sage as well as sweet and smoky layers. Use an additional half cup of fruit to highlight the tart-sweet taste of the apple. For even more flavor, opt for apple-smoked bacon and top the puréed soup with freshly ground, multicolored peppercorns and crumbled chevre. Garnish with sprigs of fresh sage.
Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Bacon
8 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4 inch strips
2 1/2 pounds butternut squash (about 1 medium), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch dice (to yield about 6 cups)
1 small Granny Smith or other tart-sweet apple, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch dice (to yield about 1 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups homemade or lower-salt chicken or vegetable broth
In a 5-quart or larger stockpot over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the squash to the pot with the bacon fat and cook until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes (resist the urge to stir it too often or it won’t brown). Stir in the apple, sage, salt and pepper, and cook for about 4 minutes (you’ll see more browning occur on the bottom of the pot than on the vegetables). Add the broth, scraping up any browned bits in the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the squash and apples are very soft, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool somewhat. Add about half the bacon to the soup and purée, using a stand or immersion blender (you’ll need to work in batches if using a stand blender; vent the top and hold a folded dish towel over the lid). Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Reheat the soup and garnish each serving with the remaining bacon.
Yield: 6 1/2 to 7 cups; serves six or seven