It’s that time of year again when I cannot contain my excitement for cozying up on the couch with a big bowl of soup. Cold weather and soup go hand in hand, especially when the soup contains an explosion of autumn flavors. While chunky stews are great and definitely serve that “comfort food” purpose, there’s nothing better than a smooth and silky soup to warm you up when the crisp November air settles in.
You don’t want to mess with soup ingredients too much. Simple is usually better, but you do want strong flavors that blend well together. I wanted the main component of this soup to be butternut squash because I absolutely love the way it blends into a velvety consistency. I add apples for a little sweetness, and of course because it’s fall and apple picking is a must. A simple mirepoix (onion, carrot & celery) rounds it all out and infuses a lot of flavor into the soup. Oh, and did I mention everything is sautéed in bacon drippings?
Once the vegetables are soft, it’s time to add the herbs: thyme, sage, and bay. Sage really reminds me of fall, so it comes through the strongest, but it’s not overpowering by any means. As soon as the herbs heat through and release their oils, I add chicken stock to finish cooking the squash. In no time, the soup simmers and is ready to blend. As if it doesn’t come out of the blender creamy enough, I stir in heavy cream for a rich, luxurious mouthfeel. Lots of sharp cheddar cheese adds an indulgent tanginess, while also contributing to the vibrant orange color of the soup.
And finally…no soup is complete without a beautiful topping! I wanted to incorporate the flavors of the soup into the topping, so I quickly sauté some apples with dried cranberries, stir in crumbled bacon that was cooked in order to obtain those delicious bacon drippings, and finish it with more chopped sage. A splash of apple cider vinegar lends some acidity to the topping, while also helping to plump up the cranberries. This light and crisp combination is the perfect accompaniment for the rich soup.
- 8 oz bacon
- 12 oz chopped yellow onion (about 1 medium onion)
- 5 oz chopped carrot (about 2 small carrots, peeled)
- 3 oz chopped celery (about 1 stalk)
- 10 oz chopped apple (about 2 small apples)
- 2 lb chopped butternut squash (about 1 large squash, peeled & seeded)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 8 sage leaves, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ½ quarts chicken stock
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 12 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- salt & pepper
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 oz diced apple (about 1 small apple)
- 5 oz dried cranberries (about 1 cup)
- crumbled bacon
- 10 sage leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- In a large pot, cook the bacon. Remove it to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. In the same pot over medium heat, add the onion, carrots, celery, apples, and butternut squash to the leftover bacon drippings. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes until the onions are soft, stirring occasionally. Add thyme, sage, and bay leaves. Cook for 1 minute before adding the chicken stock. Bring the stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook until the squash is tender. Remove the bay leaves. Transfer the hot soup to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, working in batches. When all of the soup is blended, stir in the heavy cream and cheddar cheese. Season to taste (I added about 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper). Serve warm.
- Crumble the reserved bacon. In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced apple and dried cranberries. Cook for just a couple of minutes (the apples should still be slightly crisp). Stir in the bacon and sage to heat through. Add the apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. Continue to cook for a minute or two longer, reducing some of the vinegar.
- Ladle the soup into a bowl and pile a generous amount of topping on top. Garnish with sage (for presentation) if you’d like.
- This recipe makes roughly 80oz of soup. I usually serve 8oz portions, but you can vary this amount to serve more or less people.