On a recent foodie trip to Portland we enjoyed three delicious and innovatively different meals. No peeling vegetables, no chopping garlic, no mixing, baking, cooking, and no washing dishes. It was pure luxury.
We dined on soul-bending bar food paired with locally brewed beer, Portland Harbor Hotel’s stylish Eggs Benedict and champagne cocktails, and a three course, prix fixe, local foods dinner at Union in the Portland Press Hotel.
I probably gained at least five pounds, but it was worth every bite. And the bites I remember the best were of the soup.
The soup was a bisque: a sumptuous puree of vegetables, perfectly cradled in a delicately heated soup plate, garnished with a swirl of cream, and finished with dots of herbal-infused oil. Intensely flavorful, silky and rich, this bisque was addictive and extremely satisfying.
Bisques have always been regarded as soups of high style. Originally a puree made with small game birds and thickened with bread and heavy cream, the bisque dates back to 17th century France. Flash forward to the 1900’s , when lobster, shrimp, and shellfish bisque became the hallmarks of great kitchens in celebrated hotels. Inspired chefs today create bisques that capture tomatoes, mushrooms and all sorts of vegetables in delicious and satisfying purees.
A giant Blue Hubbard squash motivated me to develop the recipe for Apple – Squash Bisque.
This is a simple soup to make, with a nice flavor balance of earthy and sweet. The squash puree is cooked with apple cider and fresh ginger, and thickened with rice. Using an immersion blender or food processor creates the velvety smooth texture. And it’s a time saver, as the recipe yields 2 quarts of soup that can be refrigerated or frozen until ready to serve.
The traditional method of serving bisque is to finish the hot soup by adding white wine or burnt brandy and heavy cream. This is a luxurious dish, and definitely one to prepare for a special occasion. Watching your calories or want a vegan recipe? Then skip the brandy and you’ll never miss the heavy cream.
APPLE – SQUASH BISQUE
- 4 tablespoons butter (or oil for vegan preparation)
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 2 garlic gloves (about 2 tablespoons), chopped
- 2 inch piece of fresh ginger peeled and chopped
- 4 cups apple cider or juice
- 1/3 cup converted rice (Uncle Ben’s)
- 4 cups cooked squash puree (roasted, steamed, boiled, frozen)
- Sea salt and fresh pepper to taste
- ¼ cup brandy (optional)
- ¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
- fresh parsley chopped
- Select your squash. (Blue Hubbard shown)
- Cut squash into pieces.
- Cook the squash (roast, steam or boil), then mash.
- Puree squash with an immersion blender.
- Melt the butter or heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot. Add the onions and cook until soft. Stir in the garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring, until fragrant and they start to soften.
- Stir in the rice, add the apple juice, and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes.
- Add the squash puree, stir to combine well, and bring the soup to a simmer. Cover and cook until the rice is tender, almost overcooked, about 20 – 25 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent from sticking.
- Once the rice is cooked, remove the soup from the stove. Puree with an immersion blender or in small batches in a blender until smooth. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper. The soup may be refrigerated at this time until ready to serve.
- To serve: Heat the soup to a simmer. Ladle bisque into heated soup cups or bowls. Top the soup with chopped fresh parsley and garnish with a swirl of heavy cream.
- To serve in the traditional way: Heat the soup to a simmer. Heat the brandy in a small pan, ignite it, and let the flames burn off completely. Add it to the pot. Spoon hot bisque into heated soup cups. Garnish the top with a swirl of heavy cream and chopped fresh parsley.