Cold weather soup, diced apples and cheese make it colorful. Easily made without the ham or bacon. Use vegetable broth instead of the chicken stock.
To make the soup, in a medium-sized saucepan heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the ham scraps, if using, the celery, garlic, and onions and saute for about 4 minutes, or until the onions are translucent but not brown.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the quartered apples. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, for abour 10 minutes or until the apples soften. Add the port and simmer for 5 minutes more. Add the chicken stock, bouquet garni, and ham bone, if using. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for about 20 minutes, or until the flavors are well blended. Remove the bouquet garni.
(The soup may be made a day or two in advance, up to this point. Cool and refrigerate. See detail 'A'.)
Meanwhile in a small skillet, fry the bacon over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels. Cut into l inch dice and set aside.
Leaving the skin on, cut the green and red apples into 1/8-inch dice to use for garnish. You will need about 2 tablespoons of each color. Put the diced apples in a small glass or ceramic bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice. Set aside.
In a small bowl, knead the softened butter and flour together until smooth to make a beurre manie'. Whisk the mixture into the soup to thicken it. Cook for 5 minutes longer, stirring frequently.
Add the grated cheese to the soup, stirring constantly, until it is melted.
Strain the soup through a fine sieve into the top of double boiler set over gently boiling water to keep the soup hot. (Do not press too hard on the solids.) season with the remaining lemon juice and salt and Tabasco to taste. Ladle the soup into warm serving bowls and garnish with the diced apples and chopped bacon. Serve hot.
Detail 'A' continued: Add the Beurre manie and then the cheese and seasonings, when you reheat the soup for serving. Do not prepare the apple and bacon garnish until a few hours before serving. This soup can be completed up to 2 hours before serving, but keep it warm in the top half of a double boiler set over hot water. Do not simmer over direct heat after the cheese has been added or the soup will separate.
Apple-Cheese Soup: Lunch or a light dinner. Or serve as appetizer followed by a Warm Lobster Taco with Yellow Tomato Salsa and Jicama Salad
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