Soup's on: Could the recipe for better holidays begin with soup?

Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012, 9:21 am
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By Sarah J. Gardner,
Every time I see a gorgeous, old soup tureen at a second-hand shop, I get a little sad thinking about the soup someone isn't serving at their big holiday meals. Granted, the person who dispensed with the tureen may be choosing to ladle soup straight from the stovetop into bowls (and if so, hats off to him or her for eliminating one more dish to wash at the end of the meal), but it seems more likely the tureen isn't needed because soup isn't being served. More's the pity.

How is it something which was once such a staple of big meals has fallen off holiday menus? Part of the issue, I think, is the tradition of serving soup as its own separate course. In big, boisterous families, particularly those in which many generations dine together, it often can feel like enough just to get everybody to the table. You might be pushing your luck to ask they then — toddlers and grandparents and newlyweds with in-laws yet to visit, all — stay seated long enough to eat the meal in stages.

But the benefits of soup, to my mind, outweigh the challenges. After all, nothing is more homey or comforting than a bowl of homemade soup, and soup is healthful. Serving it before the main course gives everyone a chance to start the meal with a good serving of vegetables and perhaps even fill up a little before the temptation of marshmallow-topped yams appear. A soup course also can free up space on the table. Replace just one side dish with a corresponding soup — broccoli soup instead of broccoli casserole, for example — and you actually have one less dish to manage when the main course comes. Perhaps best of all, soup can be made many days in advance of the main event and then simply reheated, allowing for a leisurely start to the entire meal. Is the turkey taking a little longer to roast than planned? Not to worry, there's soup you can serve in the meantime.

Soup can also serve as a solution to the problem of multiple meals. Believe me, as someone whose obligations to family and friends require me to speak of every holiday in terms of "dinners," not "dinner," I am grateful for the places where I can sit down to a warm bowl of something simple instead of another plate heaped with servings of starchy sides. It allows me to enjoy a meal with people I love without stuffing myself silly.

But the biggest argument for making soup for a holiday meal is there is nothing, and I do mean nothing, you can make in the kitchen that is more forgiving than a pot of soup. Only have one onion when a recipe calls for two? No big deal, just use what you've got. Running short on stock? Make up the difference with water. Extra carrots? Throw them in. I rather think, if you start yourholiday meal preparations by making soup, you're getting good practice in a relaxed mindset that can serve you well through all the other dishes you have to prepare.

Food that makes me feel like I don't have to hustle through the holidays? I'll have a second helping of that, gladly.

Gingered Squash and Apple Soup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tart apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, finely chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup apple cider
1 roasted butternut squash
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sour cream, yogurt or creme fraiche (optional)
Melt butter in a large, heavy soup pot set over medium-low heat; add the onions, garlic, apples and ginger and toss to coat. Cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft (about 10 minutes). Add the stock and the cider; simmer until vegetables are very tender (10 minutes more). Add the roasted squash to the soup, discarding the rind, and warm through. Puree the mixture using an immersion blender or process it in a blender in batches. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Optionally, garnish with sour cream, yogurt, or creme fraiche.
Recipe adapted from "The Northern Heartland Kitchen."

Silky Broccoli Soup
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts only, sliced
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1-1/2 pounds broccoli, crowns coarsely chopped, stems trimmed, peeled and chopped
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 rind from a piece of Parmesan cheese (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
In a small stockpot, warm the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have softened and the onion is translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic, and cook 1 minute more. Add the broccoli, stock, salt, baking soda and Parmesan cheese (if using), and stir to mix. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, until the broccoli is tender (about 20 minutes). Remove the Parmesan rind and discard. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or process it in a blender in batches. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Optionally, garnish with sour cream.
Recipe adapted

Smoky Corn Chowder
8 ounces Canadian bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
10 ounces frozen corn
15 ounces creamed corn
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup smoked gouda, shredded
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, cook the Canadian bacon over medium heat until it begins to brown, 5-6 minutes. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate. To the drippings in the pan (if any), add butter and melt. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft (about 5 to 7 minutes). Add the garlic, paprika, and turmeric and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the corn and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Transfer half the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to pot and stir in salt and pepper, adjusting to taste. Ladle into bowls for serving and garnish is gouda.
Recipe adapted from Real Simple magazine.



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