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Gazette Premium Content A hearty, easy, have-it-your-way squash bisque

By Alison Ladman The Associated Press - Published: September 25, 2013

There is something so perfect and so satisfying about a bowl of warm squash bisque on a cool fall evening. And because it is such a versatile dish, it easily is doctored in so many ways.

Using that blend of versatility and comfort as our inspiration, we created a fast and easy squash bisque that becomes a base for whatever autumn flavors you are craving. You could, of course, keep it basic and simply top this bisque with a dollop of sour cream. But we also suggest six variations of toppings, including shrimp, bacon and pulled pork.

You also could make the bisque vegan by substituting vegetable broth for the chicken broth and almond or soy creamer for the heavy cream.

CARAMELIZED ONION AND SQUASH BISQUE

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Yield: 8 servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 large sweet onions, diced 2 medium shallots, chopped 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 1 1/2 pounds cubed, peeled butternut squash 3 to 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth 1 cup heavy cream Ground black pepper

Procedure:

In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the vegetable oil. Add the onions, shallots, salt and herbs, then saute for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and brown, about another 20 minutes.

Add the vinegar and deglaze the pan. Add the squash and 3 cups of the broth, then bring to a simmer. Cover and cook until the squash is completely tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Working in batches, transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Alternatively, puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender. Either way, take care when blending hot liquids.

Return the bisque to the heat and stir in the cream. If a thinner bisque is desired, thin the soup with the remaining cup of broth. Heat until just hot. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, finish with any of the following:

- SPICED SHRIMP AND SCALLIONS

Toss 12 ounces of small cooked shrimp with 1 teaspoon five-spice powder. Top with sliced scallions.

- ASIAGO AND APPLE

Stir 2 finely diced apples into the bisque, then bring back to a simmer. Top with shredded Asiago cheese.

- BARBECUE PULLED PORK

Stir together 2 cups of shredded/pulled cooked pork with 1/3 cup barbecue sauce. Top the soup first with the pork, then a dollop of sour cream and chopped fresh cilantro.

- TWO CORN AND HERBS

Cook 1 cup of thawed frozen corn kernels on high in skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil until lightly browned. Stir kernels into bisque along with 2 tablespoons each of chopped fresh tarragon, thyme and chives. Finish by topping bisque with salted, buttered popcorn.

- PEPPERED JACK

Stir in 1 diced red bell pepper and 1/4 cup diced pickled jalapenos. Top with shredded pepper jack cheese.

- MAPLE BACON BLUE

Stir in 1/2 cup crumbled crisped bacon and 1/4 cup maple syrup. Sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese.

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