On a recent foodie trip to Portland we enjoyed three delicious and innovatively different meals. No peeling vegetables, no chopping garlic, no mixing, baking, cooking, and no washing dishes. It was pure luxury.
We dined on soul-bending bar food paired with locally brewed beer, Portland Harbor Hotel stylish Eggs Benedicts and champagne cocktails and a three-course, prix fixe, local foods dinner at Union in the Portland Press Hotel.
I probably gained at least 5 pounds, but it was worth every bite. And the bites I remember the best were of the soup.
The soup was a bisque: a sumptuous puree of vegetables, perfectly cradled in a delicately heated soup plate, garnished with a swirl of cream, and finished with dots of herbal-infused oil. Intensely flavorful, silky and rich, this bisque was addictive and extremely satisfying.
Bisques have always been regarded as soups of high style. Originally a puree made with small game birds and thickened with bread and heavy cream, the bisque dates back to 17th century France. Flash forward to the 1900, when lobster, shrimp and shellfish bisque became the hallmarks of great kitchens in celebrated hotels. Inspired chefs today create bisques that capture tomatoes, mushrooms and all sorts of vegetables in delicious and satisfying purees.
A giant Blue Hubbard squash motivated me to develop the recipe for Apple-Squash Bisque.
This is a simple soup to make, with a nice flavor balance of earthy and sweet. The squash puree is cooked with apple cider and fresh ginger, and thickened with rice. Using an immersion blender or food processor creates the velvety smooth texture. And it’s a time saver, as the recipe yields 2 quarts of soup that can be refrigerated or frozen until ready to serve.
The traditional method of serving bisque is to finish the hot soup by adding white wine or burnt brandy and heavy cream. This is a luxurious dish, and definitely one to prepare for a special occasion. Watching your calories or want a vegan recipe? Then skip the brandy and you’ll never miss the heavy cream.