tasty tuesday: chicken, lentil, and acorn squash soup with rosemary and bacon, plus bourbon apple butter

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Fall is a delightful time to be in the kitchen. It’s full of warm, enveloping smells and recipes that take time, but you don’t mind. It’s fall. Braising and roasting doesn’t happen in an instant, and your olfactory senses thank you.

I must confess, however, that I look forward to each changing season and become sad at the end of each season because of the star ingredients we gain and lose. The abundance of tomatoes, peppers, and melons in the summer is so lovely, but the gourds and greens of fall and winter are great, too. The photo above is an interesting study in seasonal transition: an autumnal soup accompanied by a hunk of bread with apple butter and…roasted okra? Okra is decidedly from the summer’s bounty, and it may be the last we get of it from our CSA this year, but it came in the same box as a pumpkin.

This soup, though…this soup should be as ubiquitous as a sorority girl’s pumpkin spice latte. The decadence of the bacon, the heartiness of the acorn squash, and the fragrance of the rosemary marry together in a swirling bowl of fall. The truth about soup is that it’s a great way to remix leftovers. In our refrigerator, I found leftover smoked chicken from Sunday night, some bacon, and some chicken stock that Alex made from the leftover chicken parts from Sunday. I knew we had lentils in the pantry and rosemary in the front yard, so I went to the store, bought an onion, the acorn squash, and some bread. Voila!

Now, a word on the bourbon apple butter. Y’all.

We’re heading out of town tomorrow for my cousin’s wedding in New Hampshire, so I knew that I wouldn’t be able to use all six North Georgia apples we received in our CSA. We’re not big dessert people, so pies, cakes, and muffins were out. I finally settled on apple butter as a way to use the apples, but I could only find recipes that called for apple juice or apple cider as the liquid. Out of laziness and lack of desire to go to the store for one item, I wondered: what could I use instead? Bourbon immediately popped into my head–the flavor profile would certainly work, and it’s something that we always have on hand. I tried it and really liked the result. The flavor from the bourbon is very subtle, but I think it gives the spread a nice depth. The thing I like best about this apple butter is that it’s not sticky sweet. The sweetness is there, but it’s a natural taste that tastes like fruit more than dessert.

Chicken and Acorn Squash Soup with Rosemary and Bacon

Yields 4 large servings, can easily be doubled or tripled

2 large chicken breasts, cooked and cubed

1 acorn squash, halved, scooped of seeds, peeled, and diced

5 bacon slices, cut in half

1 sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced into half moons

1/4 cup fresh rosemary, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups chicken stock

1/4 cup dry green lentils

salt and pepper

In a pot, place bacon slices on the bottom and heat over medium-high heat. You may have to do this in two shifts to avoid crowding the pan. When bacon is done, place on a paper towel and reserve to use as a topping. Turn the heat to medium low and add the onions. Stir onion slices in the bacon fat, then add the garlic, rosemary, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Next, add the acorn squash and stir to combine. After that, add the chicken stock and lentils and bring the liquid to a boil. When the liquid is boiling, place the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to low; cook for 20 minutes. Add the chicken to the soup about five minutes before serving.  Serve in individual bowls with the crumbled bacon on the top.

Bourbon Apple Butter

6 large apples, any variety

1/3 cup bourbon

1/4 cup honey

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp. ginger

1 tsp. cardamom

Core and dice the apples, leaving the skin on. Place all of the ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot, give them a stir, and heat over medium-low. Let this cook for about two hours, stirring occasionally. After two hours, blend the mixture either with an immersion blender or in a food processor. Makes about 6 cups and keeps for about 1 week.

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