Apple Cider Soup with Rosemary Cream

My husband and I like to make fancy dinners at home at least a couple Saturdays a month instead of going out. When we got back from Manhattan, this was the first Saturday night dinner that I made. I was so inspired from our day at The National and I couldn’t wait to try my first recipe from Geoffrey Zakarian’s cookbook. The cookbook is divided up by ingredients and then each ingredient gets a “town” recipe (elegant dinner-party fare) and a “country” recipe (quick weeknight meals/Sunday suppers). We had gotten big beautiful granny smith apples from our farmer’s market that morning so I flipped to apples in the book, found this recipe under “country” (although with how long it took and all the different components I’d consider it more “town”) and decided to make it. The depth of flavor in this soup is incredible… hints of molasses from roasting butternut squash with brown sugar, tartness from the apples, a sweetness from the onions and the addition of a vanilla bean, a kick of flavor from the regular and hard ciders and an unbelievable aroma from the spices that are ground by hand with mortar and pestle. If that wasn’t enough, it’s garnished with toasted fresh pumpkin seeds that give it a much needed crunch and an out-of-this-world rosemary infused cream. Make this for your Thanksgiving guests and they’re be begging for more!

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Take a medium butternut squash (about 1/2 lb), cut it in half, scrape out and discard the seeds, and rub the flesh with 4 tbsp packed dark brown sugar. Place the halves on a baking sheet and roast in the oven, cut sides up, until every soft (about 1 1/2 hours). Spoon the flesh into a bowl along with any juices and reserve; discard the skin. While the squash is roasting, make the rosemary cream. Set up a double boiler by placing a small saucepan over a larger pan of barely simmering water. Combine 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves, 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese and 1/4 cup heavy cream in the top pan. Slowly melt the mascarpone, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat to low and allow the rosemary to infuse the cream, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. Pass the rosemary cream through a strainer into a chilled bowl set over an ice bath; discard the rosemary leaves. Stir the cream frequently as it cools to room temp, season with salt to taste. You can also ground your spices while waiting for the squash: in a mortar and pestle grind 1 whole clove, 1 piece of star anise, 1 cinnamon stick and 3 all spice berries. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a clean spice grinder or just use pre-ground spices.

Once your squash is almost done roasting, you can start working on the soup! Melt 4 tbsp unsalted butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add 2 cups sliced white onion, stir in the ground spices and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown and soft (about 10 minutes). Stir in 1/4 cup minced fresh ginger and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup chopped turnip, a split whole vanilla bean, 2 cups granny smith apples (that have been peeled, cored and sliced), grated zest of an orange, 3 cups sweet apple cider, 1 cup hard apple cider (use 4 cups sweet cider if you want to omit the alcohol), the reserved roasted squash and 1 cup of water. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce to low and simmer until the flavors are combined and the apples and turnips are soft, about 20 minutes. Toast 1/4 cup fresh pumpkin seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Puree the soup in a blender once it’s done simmering, then pass it through a sieve and return to the cooking pot. Stir in 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Zakarian suggests serving all soups warm but not piping hot, because if it’s too hot it will just shut your taste buds down and make it so you can’t appreciate all the flavors. Sprinkle a few of the toasted pumpkin seeds in each bowl and add a swirl of the rosemary cream. I served this with a bottle of my favorite champagne (Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé), sparkling water, a loaf of apple cider raisin bread and  macarons and chocolate from Ladurée.

You can also eat this soup at room temperature or cold, in chilled martini glasses as an appetizer or put a teaspoon in a glass of champagne for an apéritif. If you’re looking for another great soup to make for Thanksgiving, try my Root Vegetable Soup with Pancetta and Black Truffle Oil!

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