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Winter Squash Bisque and Apple-Ham Crostini with Cheddar

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

Bisque:
1 (2-pound) butternut squash
1 medium acorn squash
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated gingerroot
1/4 cup sweet sherry
4 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
1 cup half-and-half

Crostini:
6 slices French baguette, 1/2 inch thick
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, diced
1/2 pound smoked ham, diced
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh sage
1/3 to 1/2 pound Wisconsin aged cheddar cheese, cut in 6 slices (the size of the bread slices)

Cooking Directions:

For the bisque, preheat the oven to 350° F. Cut the butternut and acorn squashes in half; scoop out the seeds. Place on a baking sheet, cut side down. Bake 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until tender, turning to place the peel side down midway through baking. Remove from the oven, but keep the temperature at 350°F for the crostini. Scoop out the flesh and set aside.

In large soup pot, melt the butter. Sauté the onion until soft. Stir in the garlic and ginger. Deglaze the pan with sherry. Stir in the stock and cooked squash. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook until the mixture boils; reduce the heat to simmer, and cook about 15 minutes. Puree the soup, adding the sage and the half-and-half. Keep warm.

For the crostini, brush the bread slices with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; place on a baking sheet. Bake 4 minutes.

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, cook the apples, ham, and 1 teaspoon sage in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil until tender, about 3 minutes. Place 1 slice of cheese on each slice of bread, and top with a tablespoon of the apple-ham mixture.

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