Here we go, everyone! The holidays are just around the corner, so how do you entertain, while keeping your sanity during this season?
Well, I have one word for you: SOUP.
Yes, it’s that simple. If you have unexpected guests such as kids’ college roommates, couple friends who are stopping through town on their way to a Thanksgiving elsewhere, or just want to find a night to carve out some girl time with zero fuss, SOUP is where it’s at. Here are my tips on how you take a simple dish, and turn it into a memorable affair for all involved.
Variety is key. If you’re hosting a night for three or more people, I recommend serving at least two soups, so there are plenty of choices from which to choose. Best case scenario? Everyone likes different soups, and you’ve provided some variety for their holiday palate. Worst case soup scenario? You have leftover soup, which freezes beautifully. Win-win, really. I recommend serving a hearty, broth-based soup, such as my Moll’s Bean Soup (a favorite of my husband, Charlie), a thick and protein-packed chicken or meat chili, and a smooth vegetable option, like tomato basil. My girlfriend, Loretta, always makes a big, spicy batch for me each year when the weather gets cold, and she gladly shared her recipe for me to try (See Lo’s Tomato Basil Soup below).
Serve that soup with a starch. While we all might normally try to steer clear of carbs, soup night’s got no time for that. So, be sure to offer a good assortment of breads and crackers, just begging to be dipped into those hearty concoctions. I suggest serving a crispy baguette with a doughy center, a salty sourdough, a mild, sweet country wheat and an array of crackers, such as water crackers, wheat crackers and mini toasts. And, don’t forget those oyster crackers for your chowders and that cornbread for your chilis! And, speaking of chilis, thats exactly what we had for our girls night in dinner to celebrate my birthday just a few weeks ago. Instead of crackers we went with tortilla strips to top our Santa Fe Chili.
Don’t forget the toppings. While I know your soups are amazing, it’s never a bad idea to provide a little DIY topping bar. Regardless of the soup you choose, set up little condiment bowls filled with hot sauce, sour cream, cream cheese, cheddar, parmesan, swiss, chives, croutons, seasonal seeds (such as pumpkin), parsley and salsa. Not only will you encourage your guests to enhance the taste of any soup, but also you’ll encourage their creativity and conversation with other guests.
Serve your self-style. While normally I’m all about catering to your guests and making them feel appreciated, in the case of soup, “serve yourself-style” can be a gift to all. If you have an evening where people don’t know one another very well, asking people to serve themselves can make for some pretty engaging starter conversations.
Moll’s Bean Soup
- 1 HoneyBaked® ham bone
- 6 cups cold water
- 6 cups of boxed vegetable broth
- 1 package of HoneyBaked® Ham Bone Soup mix
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes
- 1 cup of diced celery
- 1 cup of diced onions
- 2 tsp. chopped garlic
- 1 tsp. of ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp. of ground sea salt
- 1 tsp. ground Chophouse Blend seasoning from Fresh Market
- 2 Tbsp. of olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. of butter
Place the ham bone in large stockpot and add the water and stock; bring to a boil. Add the contents of the soup mix. Return the ham and liquids to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer approximately 2 hours. Place the butter, bay leaves, tomatoes, celery, onion, garlic, pepper, salt, and Chophouse Blend into a large sauté pan and sauté lightly. Set aside. Remove the ham bone and allow it to cool. Add the sautéed vegetables and beans from the soup mix to the liquid in the stockpot, and cook over moderate heat for approximately 1 hour, or until the beans from the soup mix are tender. Remove the meat from the ham bone and dice; add to the soup and mix well. Remove 6 cups of the soup and place into kitchen blender, cover and puree. Pour the purée back into the large pot of soup. Serve with the French crostini. drizzle with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and top with the Parmesan cheese. Serves 4 to 6.
Lo’s Tomato Basil Soup
- 3 pounds fresh Roma tomatoes
- 1/4 cup, plus 2 Tbs. oilve oil
- 1 tsp. butter
- 6 cloves garlic, pressed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 chili peppers
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 1 can Progresso Hearty Tomato soup
- 5-6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
- 4 cups basil, chopped
- salt & pepper
- Fresh block or parmesan cheese
Wash Roma tomatoes, cut in half and toss in 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 tsp salt/pepper. Lay them out on a roasting pan and roast for 45 minutes at 400 degrees. On the stove in large soup pan, add remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil, butter, garlic, onion, and chili peppers chopped and cook on medium-high until onion starts to brown. Add chicken stock, can of Progresso soup, thyme leaves and chopped basil. Lastly, add roasted tomatoes and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and simmer for 45 minutes. Using a hand blender in the pot or pour into a regular blender and purée as desired to a smooth consistency before serving. Top with thick shaved parmesan cheese to serve.
Santa Fe Chicken Chili
- 6 chicken breasts (cooked and pulled/lightly shredded)
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic
- 2 Tbsp. oil
- 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes
- 1 can chipotle tomatoes
- 1 can tomatoes (with green chilies)
- 3 cans black beans
- 1 can corn
- 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp chipotle powder
- 1 Tbsp. green chile powder
- 2 (26 oz) chicken stock
- salt & pepper to taste
- Top with: cilantro, avocado, lime, cheese, tortillas (optional)
In a skillet on medium-high heat, cook onions in oil and add garlic and continue to cook until the onions turn clear in color. Remove from stove and blend onions along with all tomatoes in blender until completely smooth (you may add a little of the chicken stock if more liquid is needed for blending). Pour the puréed onions and tomatoes into a large soup pot and add chicken and remaining ingredients and let it come to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 30 min. Add toppings and serve.
Moll Wants To Know: How do you serve your soup?
Bean Soup photos from Seductive Tables for Two, Beall + Thomas Photography