Butternut squash is simply terrific in soups. In this recipe, apples and apple cider partner with buttery squash to create a smooth, creamy bisque. The base of the soup can be made a day ahead of serving or frozen. To keep it simple, a sprinkling of fresh tarragon finishes the bisque nicely. If you have more time, chopped hazelnuts, tiny toasted croutons, or fried sage leaves would work well as garnishes.
If cream doesn't figure in your diet, don't worry — the soup will still taste great without it.
Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and butternut, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the apples, Five-Spice Powder, 3-1/3 cups of the stock, and the apple cider. Bring the soup to the start of a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer until the vegetables are very soft, 20 to 30 minutes.
Purée the soup in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth. Pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl, discarding any solids. At this point the soup can be cooled, covered and refrigerated (or frozen).
To serve, reheat the soup gently and add the heavy cream. If the bisque is too thick, thin it with some of the remaining stock. Divide among heated bowls and garnish each serving with a sprinkling of tarragon.