Believe it or not, my daughter and son have birthdays one day apart, the 28th and 29th of November! It wasn't planned that way, but it has given them an extra special bond over the years and has always made our holiday season even a bit more festive......
As some of you who read my blog regularly know, my daughter and her family currently reside in London, England. While we love visiting them in the UK, and greatly anticipate their times with us here in the States, we miss seeing them on a frequent basis. Our son, on the other hand recently took a job and moved to within fifteen minutes of us! We LOVE having them so close and are thrilled with the fact that they can just pop in on us just about anytime!
I'm making a special dinner tonight to celebrate Nick's birthday - I know he'll enjoy it, but I'm keeping it a surprise for the most part ............. except for this wonderful Smokey Cheddar/Apple Soup with Apple Calvados-Cranberry Garnish which I will be serving in small bowls as an appetizer soup.
This soup is loaded with apples and an array of veggies which are sautéed in a bit of butter/olive oil, then simmered till tender in a bath of chicken broth. A whirl in the blender or a swirl with an immersion blender, a generous shower of smokey cheddar cheese and a lovely garnish of fresh diced apples and Calvados** spiked cranberries makes for an awesome soup - anytime of the day!
I'll be sharing more of the birthday dinner later this week, but for now, I just want to wish Cait and Nick a most Happy Birthday! We are so graced* to be your parents!
*While we don't believe in luck (therefore the word "lucky" is not in our vocabulary), grace .............. now that's a different story! We're immersed, overwhelmed and amazed at God's provision, blessing and unmerited favor in our lives, Cait, Nick and their families being among the greatest of these treasures!
** Calvados (French pronunciation: [kal.va.dos]) is an apple brandy from the French région of Basse-Normandie or Lower Normandy. (From Wikipedia) If you don't have Calvados or don't care for cooking with alcohol, apple juice or cider is a perfect substitute.
Smokey Cheddar/Apple Soup with Apple-Calvados-Cranberry Garnish
Ingredients for the soup:
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 medium shallots, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
2 medium apples, quartered, cored and coarsely chopped, I used Gala
2 cloves garlic
⅓ cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon mild smoked paprika, some smoked paprikas are quite spicy hot so you might want to start with a ½ teaspoon and add more to taste
5 cups chicken broth
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
10 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, grated (about 3 cups) I used a delicious applewood smoked cheddar from Sam's Club
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Ingredients for the garnish:
½ medium apple, cored and diced
¼ cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons Calvados, or apple juice or cider
1. Place chopped, dried cranberries in a small microwave safe bowl or a small glass jar. Add Calvados or apple juice, cover with plastic wrap and heat on high for 15 seconds. Set aside to cool.
2. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil, onion, shallots, apples, celery, garlic, Sriracha and paprika. Saute until tender and aromatic - about 5-7 minutes.
3. Sprinkle flour and dry mustard over onion and stire to evenly coat. Continue cooking, stirring often, for 1-2 minutes.
4. Add broth, stirring until well blended and bring soup to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the soup is thickened and the veggies and apples are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the fresh oregano.
5. Place soup in batches in a regular blender or puree right in the pot with an immersion blender*.
6. Bring the blended soup back to a simmer, add the grated cheese and turn the heat off. Cover for 5 minutes then stir until all cheese is blended in and fully melted. Taste and add sea salt if needed and a generous shower of freshly ground black pepper.
7. While cheese is melting, make the garnish by combining apples and prepared dried cranberries. If not serving immediately you can toss the garnish with a few drops of lemon juice keep the apples from browning.
8. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, mound a bit of the apple/cranberry garnish** in the center and add a sprig of fresh oregano, if desired. Serve immediately.
**Another garnish that would be simple and delicious on this soup would be a sprinkle of applewood bacon. Sometimes I some diced cheddar cheese to the apple-cranberry garnish, also quite yummy as you get little bits of melting cheese with each bite, yum!
Adapted from A Decade of Cooking, the Costco Way
Makes 4-6 lunch size servings or 8-10 appetizer servings