French bistro – that’s what this soup says to me. I have no idea if this is anyway something you would find on an authentic bistro menu, but the combination of classic vegetables and Calvados brandy just seems to me like something that would be served in a simple bistro, in a big bowl, with a sliced baguette on the table. Because I find this soup has that elusive French quality of being simple, but complex. Like Parisian ladies who wear simple trousers, a cashmere sweater and a jauntily tied scarf and look impeccably put together. Simple elements, but it never looks that chic on me. The ingredients for this soup are like that – few and not particularly exotic, but they come together to make something altogether enchanting. The creamy base, savory carrots, celery and green onions and the sweet-tart apples with that sharp hit of Calvados give this classic set of ingredients depth and richness.
You get the chance to practice some French cooking technique here. I really find the ingredients are best cut very small, called brunoise. Everything then fits in one spoonful and the soup keeps its delicate character. But okay, I use my handy vegetable chopper sometimes. A little patience with the knife work and everything comes together beautifully.
Chicken Apple Bisque
¼ cup butter
1 celery stick
1 bunch green onions (about 6), white and light green parts only
1 green apple, cored
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
3 cups chicken broth
¼ cup Calvados (apple brandy)
1 cup half and half
½ cup milk
1 cooked chicken breast
Finely dice the carrot, celery, green onion and apple (including peel). You want very small pieces, so exercise some patience. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat, then add the diced vegetables and apples and sauté until soft and tender. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until the vegetables are a thick paste and there is no flour visible. Add the nutmeg and salt, then pour in the broth and Calvados. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring constantly, until the soup has thickened slightly. Add the half and half and mik, lower the heat to a simmer. Finely dice the chicken breast and add to the soup. Heat gently – do not boil – until the soup is armed through. Season to taste with salt.
You can cool the soup and refrigerate, covered, for several hours, then reheat gently, making sure it does not come to a boil.