Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Soup Bar

For the Thanksgiving gathering at my sister's house this year, I volunteered to provide the appetizers. I've done this for many of the family holiday gatherings, typically making any number of a variety of dips, crudites platters, cheese plates, and the like. This year I wanted to do something a little different, and was hit with the inspiration of soup. Providing a single soup morphed into two soups, then three, and it went on from there to include homemade crackers and various garnishes.

I got the idea from an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats that I saw recently. He used a small cooking pumpkin to create a pumpkin soup. The pumpkin was hollowed out and seasonings, stock, cream, and goat cheese were added and the whole thing was baked. The cooked pumpkin and additions were then blended with a stick blender and the soup was served in the pumpkin shell.

The idea was appealing, but this time of year pumpkins aren't plentiful. I started thinking about butternut squash instead, but obviously cooking inside the vegetable wasn't going to be an option. I'd recently had a curried corn chowder, and thought about doing that instead. Once the Soup Switch had been turned on, I started thinking about other soups I like or have wanted to try.

I ended up with three: A plain corn and potato chowder that I created many years ago; a curried butternut squash soup, and a black bean soup. I settled on these three choices because the star ingredients in each were important New World foods, even if some of the flavors might be borrowed from other parts of the world. 

To accompany the soups I provided yogurt cream, minced jalapenos, chopped cilantro, and lime wedges. I also made two kinds of homemade crackers. I'll be posting the recipes for both crackers and all three soups in the coming week or so. 

One dilemma I was faced with was providing warm soup for leisurely noshing when a busy Thanksgiving kitchen would not have any stove space to spare. I indulged in a last-minute splurge and snapped up a triple slow cooker from Bella. Other manufacturers have triple slow cookers meant for dips, but the crocks in this device hold 1.5 quarts rather than the usual 0.5 quarts. I really only wanted a warmer -- I didn't need an actual slow cooker, but it was inexpensive (less than $30 at Target, although the MSRP is more than double that), and was also surprisingly well-designed and sturdy. I was a little hesitant to spend money on what could turn out to be a specialized, rarely-used device, but the quality for the price made me happy I got it. I can see using it at many future holiday gatherings and other occasions. 


amy (fearless homemaker) said...

This is SO fabulous. Soup is one of my all-time favorite comfort foods, so I would've been all over your soup bar. The three soups sound wonderful, as do the garnishes/toppings. Love it!

TLF said...

I was quite pleased with both the inspiration and the end result!