4 to 6 thick slices of bacon, coarsely diced
3 to 4 tart, juicy apples, pared, quartered, cored, and coarsely diced
4 tablespoons butter
4 large onions, coarsely dice
3 cups good beef broth, or as needed
6 to 8 whole allspice berries, lightly bruised
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste Freshly ground black pepper
A dash of lemon juice (optional)
1 teaspoon carraway seeds, lightly bruised (optional)
Cream soups are best when they have something more than creaminess going for them. A good cold-weather example is this robust sweet-tart combination of apples--use a good local fall variety in season--and onions with some crisp bacon for counterpoint. It's best when made with a strong, full-flavored beef broth.
1. Cook the bacon slowly in a heavy skillet to render out all the fat. When it is crisp, scoop it out of the fat and drain on paper towels.
2. Sauté the diced apples over medium heat in the same skillet, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. Scoop out a few spoonfuls of the apples for garnish and set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan. When it foams and sizzles, add the chopped onions and sauté very patiently over low heat, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the onions are well softened and starting to brown. Scoop out a few spoonfuls for garnish and set aside with the reserved apples.
4. Add the rest of the apples to the onions, pour in the broth, add the allspice, and simmer until everything is nearly dissolved, 10 to 15 minutes. Fish out and discard the allspice.
5. Pureé the soup in batches in a blender or food processor, making sure to leave the texture slightly coarse.
6. Return the soup to the pot, heat to a boil, and stir in the cream. Let it come to a boil again, add the salt and a grinding of pepper, and taste for seasoning; if it seems too bland, squeeze in a little lemon juice. If it is too thick for your taste, thin it with some hot water.
7. Serve garnished with the reserved bacon, apple, and onion. I like a scattering of carraway seed as well.
YIELD: 8 to 9 cups
Excerpted from Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk through the Ages, by Anne Mendelson Copyright © 2008 by Anne Mendelson. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.