2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large sweet onions, diced
2 medium shallots, chopped
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1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs or herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1½ pounds cubed, peeled butternut squash
3 to 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
Ground black pepper
1. In a large saucepan over medium-high, heat the vegetable oil. Add the onions, shallots, salt and herbs, then sauté for five minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and brown, about another 20 minutes.
2. 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 purée until smooth. Alternatively, purée the soup in the pot using an immersion blender. Either way, take care when blending hot liquids.
3. 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.
4. 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.
• Corn and herbs: Cook 1 cup of thawed frozen corn kernels on high in a skillet with 1 tablespoon of oil until lightly browned. Stir the kernels into the bisque along with 2 tablespoons each of chopped fresh tarragon, thyme and chives.
• Peppered jack: Stir in 1 diced red bell pepper and ¼ cup diced pickled jalapeños. Top with shredded pepper jack cheese.
• Maple bacon blue: Stir in ½ cup crumbled crisped bacon and ¼ cup maple syrup. Sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese.
Alison Ladman, The Associated Press