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Squash soup with bacon and apples

SERVES 4

Butternut squash is easy to peel with a small paring knife. Once that's done, the flesh is superior to the ready-peeled butternut squash available in markets.

1 butternut squash

4 slices bacon

2 tablespoons butter

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped

3 Cortland apples, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 quart chicken stock, or to taste

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper, to taste

Halve the squash and remove the seeds from each half. Peel them. Cut the squash into 2-inch pieces.

In a large flameproof casserole, render the bacon over medium-high heat, turning it often, until it is crisp and golden brown. Put the bacon on several thicknesses of paper towels. When it is cool enough to handle, crumble the strips.

Discard the bacon fat in the pan and wipe out the bottom.

Melt the butter, add the onions, and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Add two-thirds of the apples, the maple syrup, squash pieces, stock, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Turn the heat to medium-low and cook the soup, partially covered, for 30 minutes or until the squash and apples are tender.

In a blender, puree the soup a little at a time until it is smooth. Return the soup to the pan. The soup should be thick, but not as thick as split pea soup. If necessary, thin it with a few tablespoons of stock or water.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if you like. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the bacon pieces and the remaining chopped apples.

Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven

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