Sunday, November 13, 2011

Plan a Soup Party!

With the cold fall/winter weather upon us, one of my favorite ways is to entertain is with a soup party. It’s easy, tasty, and especially scrumptious when the wind is howling or there’s snow on the ground.

Now, a “soup party” can mean a lot of different things to different people. For many, it just means a simple dinner party where a main dish soup, or several types of soup, is the main course. To me, a “soup party” is a type of potluck get-together where guests bring their favorite homemade soup.

Usually the host provides 1-2 main dish soups, along with some accompaniments like fresh yeast bread and/or cornbread (either homemade or from the bakery), a tossed green salad and maybe a “comfort” dessert like bread pudding or apple crisp. Then guests (usually one batch of soup per family/couple) can each bring a batch of their own favorite soup, or perhaps additional menu items like the desserts and wine or other beverages. I like to ask guests to make labels identifying their soups, so everyone knows what type of soup they’re sampling.

During the meal, provide soup mugs or bowls for guests to sample the different soups—kind of like what you might do at a soup and salad bar. You can also provide “to go” containers and lids for guests to take favorite soups home with them.

To add to the ambiance, you might want to place a large basket of freshly-baked bread at the center of your table(s), have mulled, spiced apple cider warming on the stovetop or in a crockpot, and light your fireplace if you have one—just to add to the cozy, relaxed mood of the get-together.

Here are five of my favorite soup recipes. When I host a soup party, I will usually pick a couple of these to make.

1. Copycat Applebee’s Tomato Basil Soup
This recipe came from Todd Wilbur’s cookbook, Top Secret Recipes 3. It is my all-time favorite soup recipe:

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ cup minced white onion
2 (28-oz.) cans crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
¾ cup heavy cream
1/3 cup minced fresh basil
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
¼ tsp. dried oregano
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Garlic butter or other seasoned croutons
Freshly-grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the teaspoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and then add the onion and garlic. Saute for about a minute and then add the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth. Bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let mixture cool, uncovered, for 30 minutes or so.

Pour approximately half of the tomato mixture into a blender. Put the lid on the blender and hold it down with a dish towel. (The mixture might still be hot and you don’t want the lid of the blender coming off.) Blend on a high speed for about a minute; then pour the mixture into a large bowl or pitcher. Then pour the remaining unblended soup mixture into the blender and blend on high speed for about a minute.

Pour all the pureed tomato mixture back into the saucepan, and then add the remaining ingredients. Bring the soup back to a bubble, and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls, and garnish each with croutons and Parmesan cheese.

2. Potato Cheese Soup

8 cups peeled and diced Russet potatoes
3 large white or yellow onions, peeled and died
8 stalks celery, sliced thinly
2 tsp. salt
8 cups (64 oz.) water
4 cups half and half
6 T. butter
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
Optional: Fresh chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Put potatoes, onions, celery, salt and water in stock pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Turn off heat and let it cool about 15 minutes. Then put mixture in blender or food processor and chop until chunky. Return mixture to stockpot and add the half-and-half, butter and cheese. Stir over low heat, until cheese is melted. Serve with parsley, if desired.

3. Tortilla Soup

2 T. oil
1 medium sized yellow onion, diced
1 (4 oz.) can seeded and chopped green chilies
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 (14 ½ oz.) can tomatoes, chopped
2 (10 ½ oz.) cans chicken broth
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups tomato juice
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. steak sauce
1 T. lime juice

Saute onions, chilies and garlic in oil. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 hour. Serve hot with tortilla chips, grated Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese, and diced fresh cilantro.

4. Crock Pot Chicken Noodle Soup

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, uncooked
2 quarts filtered water
10-12 celery stalks (with leaves), cut into ¼-inch slices (about 3 cups)
2 lb. bag of fresh carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
1 T. salt
1 ½ tsp. granulated sugar
½ to 1 tsp. (depending on taste) ground black pepper
8 chicken bouillon cubes or 1 T. ground chicken bouillon
3 cups uncooked thin egg noodles

Put all ingredients in 6 ½ to 7 quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours. During last 30 minutes of cooking time, put uncooked noodles in soup in crocker; this will cook the noodles. Makes about 16 large servings of soup.

5. Crock Pot Vegetable Beef Soup

1 pound boneless beef ribs or shanks
8 cups (64 oz.) filtered water
1 (14 ½ oz.) can tomatoes, broken up
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 medium yellow onions, diced
5 celery stalks, with tops, sliced
2 yellow neck squash, sliced
2 cups fresh green green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 medium potatoes, sliced and diced
½ cup frozen corn kernels
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 tsp. dried parsley
7 beef bouillon cubes

Put all ingredients in 1 ½ to 5 quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 12 to 24 hours. Before serving, break up beef into small, bite-size pieces.

Happy soup making!

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