The holiday season is back again, and for most of us that includes holiday parties and family functions with endless supplies of food and drinks. All a fun and obligatory part of this time of year, but there are few events that focus solely on having intimate dinner parties where you actually sit down and enjoy the company of your guests. During this busy and sometimes stressful season I say that we change that! And what better way to do so but by getting all your friends together with a holiday/winter soup celebration or more simply dubbed a soup party. As a casual, simple-to-plan, and hopefully low stress event, a soup party is literally where soup is served as an appetizer, main dish, and dessert. Here's is part one to how to make it all happen for a party for six or less:
Make Your Guest List
Since this is not a typical party scenario where you make some appetizers and buy some drinks, having a soup party involves a substantial amount of preparation on your part that will have you grocery shopping and in the kitchen several days before the festivities. For this reason, I think that inviting six people is more than enough for your soup party, especially for your first foreray into soup parties.
If for some reason you think that you can effortlessly shop, prepare, and serve three different soups to more than six people in one night, as well as have the space to house them then by all means give it a go. But this is not going to be easy and since this should be a low-eye and fun event, you may not want get involved in something this grand-a soup party is supposed to be relaxing after all.
Set Up The Menu
Making your menu should be an exciting way to utilize local and seasonal ingredients while showcasing your soupy chops. Since we are talking about a holiday party, I decided to start the party with an appetizer of a light pumpkin and ginger soup topped with fried sage, a hearty vegetable lamb stew as main course, and a berry and wine soup. Depending on your preferences as well as your guests, you can opt for a soup that essentially is something that you want to make. I chose pumpkin, but you can opt for a butternut squash, carrot, or even a simple broth with orzo for your appetizer, whatever you like will work, just make sure that it is done well.
If you have time and want to add something a little personal to your soupy party you can ask guests what their favorite soup is ahead of time. With construction paper create a label that says there favorite soup name and have them wear it during the party. This can strike up conversation about that particular soup or you can organize a game the soup labels such as guessing the ingredients or guessing how to make the soup where the guest with the closest answers will win a door prize (soup cookbook, laddle, etc) You can also have a part of the party go home with your guests, by purchasing small mason jars, so that they can take home any left over soups as a goody bag.
Labels, Games, and Jars!
Labels, Games, and Jars!
The Game Plan
The actual prep of the soups starts with buying the ingredients. Try to do all of your shopping three-four days before the party, but some ingredients (berries, cheeses, etc) should be as fresh as possible, so you may be shopping a day or two before.
The actual soup prep should start two days before the party where you begin with the pumpkin/ginger appetizer soup. After it is prepared, place the contents in a plastic container and freeze it. The day before make the lamb vegetable stew, allot three-four hours for its preparation and cooking time. When the soup cools place it in a plastic container in the fridge. The morning of the party, defrost the pumpkin soup and make the dessert soup and chill it for at least six hours. Clean up, set up the apps, and finally sit down and enjoy your creations with your friends. Theoretically, you should only be warming up the other soups and plating them with various garnishes and preparing the super easy dessert one on the day of the party, but of course anything can happen, so be sure to give yourself extra prep time, especially when you are trying to throw your first soupy party.
Bread, Croutons, Cheese, and More
We all know that soup and bread go hand-in-hand and of course you should have some at your party, particularly with your main dish. If you are up for some more home cooking feats, you should try this super easy whole grain artistan bread recipe from the bad girl's kitchen or this homemade crouton from Willy World. You can buy a loaf at your local baker, as well as have a platter of olives, salami or smoked salmon, and various cheeses to greet your guests when they first arrive, but try to to have too much since the soup should be the main attraction at this party.
Depending on where you live, you may or may not have a formal dining table. Living in Brooklyn I personally have limited space as well as not enough soup bowls, (which is also why I say not to max out the guest list past six people). But, if you are brave enough to actually have a soup party, not having enough bowls shouldn’t stand in your way of having a good time. You can really use anything to serve your soup. I suggest starting with a small bowl or even a mug for the opening course, and then serve the stew in a large bowl, whereas the dessert goes into a small bowl or ice cream bowl. Of course, if you don’t have as many options, using whatever you have always works just fine.
Drinkin' It Up
This is a holiday fest and drinks are usually always part of it. Here are some suggestions and parings for the recipes:
Pumpkin and Ginger Soup —Pinot Noir or a Tempranillo, as recommended on Star Chefs and Girl with a Glass.
Vegetable Lamb Stew— Zinfandel, Chateau Guiraud-Cheval Blanc, Merlot, or a Beaujolais as recommended on epicurious.com.
Pumpkin Ginger Soup —Oktoberfest beer from Brooklyn Brewery.
Vegetable Lamb Stew — Brown ale, ESB, Scottish Ale or Marzen, as recommended on brew monkey.
Don't forget to check out Part Two (the actual recipes), coming this Thursday!