Butternut squash soup with apple and bacon

8 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
2- 1/2 lb. butternut squashes (about 1 medium), peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice (to yield about 6 cups)
1 small Granny Smith or other tart-sweet apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice (to yield about 1 cup)
1-1/2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 cups homemade or low-salt chicken or vegetable broth

In a 5-quart or larger stockpot, set over medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.

Increase heat to medium high. Add the squash to the pot with the bacon fat and cook until lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes (resist the urge to stir it too often or it won't brown). Stir in the apple, sage, salt and pepper and cook for about 4 minutes (you'll see more browning occur on the bottom of the pot than on the vegetables). Add the broth, scarping up any browned bits in the pot with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the squash and apples are very soft, 6 to 8 minutes. remove from the heat and let cool somewhat.

Add about half the bacon to the soup and purée, using a stand or immersion blender (you'll need to work in batches if using a stand blender). Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Reheat the soup and garnish each serving with remaining bacon.

Serves 6-7. Yields about 6 1/2 to 7 cups.

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