A swirl of cider cream (made with cider that has been reduced, then combined with sour cream) and crispy bits of bacon top this silken-smooth mixture that delectably combines sweet, tart, and salty flavors.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 cups peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash (from 2- to 2-1/2-pound squash; cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (about 3 medium leeks)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
2 small Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped, plus an extra apple for garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried sage
5 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups apple cider, divided
2/3 cup sour cream
5 bacon slices, sautéed until crisp, drained, and crumbled
Melt the butter in a large, heavy pan set over medium-high heat. When hot, add squash, leeks, carrots, and celery and sauté, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened slightly, 10 to 12 minutes. Add apples, thyme, and sage. Add stock and 1 cup of the cider. Bring mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently until vegetables and apples are tender, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Meanwhile, make the cider cream. Boil remaining 1/2 cup cider in a small, heavy saucepan until it reduces to 1/4 cup, for about 5 minutes. Cool, then place sour cream in a small bowl and whisk in reduced cider. (Cider cream can be prepared 1 day ahead; cover and refrigerate until needed.)
Purée the soup in batches in a food processor, blender, or food mill, and return soup to the pot. (Or use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot.) Taste soup and season with salt, as needed. (Soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat.)
For the garnish, halve and core the remaining apple, then cut one half into 12 paper-thin slices. (Eat or save remaining half for another use.)
To serve, ladle soup into 6 shallow bowls and drizzle with cider cream. Garnish each serving with crumbled bacon and a couple of apple slices.
At the market note: Butternut squash can be purchased already peeled and cut into chunks at many supermarkets—a big time-saver.
Cooking tip: To peel hard squashes, halve them lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Then, using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, remove the skin in strips.
Prep time: 20 to 30 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes
Make ahead: Yes
From Sunday Soup: A Year's Worth of Mouth-Watering, Easy-To-Make Recipes. Published by Chronicle Books. Copyright © 2008 by Betty Rosbottom. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Chronicle Books.