"Butternut squash and apples come into season around the same time in Vermont," Jeremy Silansky says, "and they go so well together." But this soup's key ingredient is its smoked-cheddar garnish. Silansky gets his cheese from Grafton Village Cheese Company, a local producer with national distribution that cold-smokes aged cheddar over a maple-wood fire.
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2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
3/4 cup apple cider
One 1 3/4-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch dice (5 1/4 cups)
4 1/2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 McIntosh apple, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/3 cup coarsely shredded smoked cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
One-inch pieces of chives or thinly sliced sage leaves, for garnish
How to Make It
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the apple cider and cook until syrupy, about 3 minutes. Add the butternut squash and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 40 minutes.
In a blender, puree the soup in batches. Return the soup to the saucepan and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.
Heat a medium skillet. Add the butter and diced apple and cook over high heat until the apple is tender and golden around the edges, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls; garnish with the smoked cheddar, sautéed apples and chives; serve.
The soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat before garnishing with the cheddar, apples and chives.
There's no better pairing for this appley soup than a sweet and tangy artisanal cider from one of Vermont's producers, which have been restoring New England's centuries-old cider-making traditions. Look for the pale gold, lightly sweet Original Sin or the fruitier, richer Woodchuck Amber Draft. Alternatively, pour a firm white from California's Mendocino County.
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