Well, it’s the second week of December already…which means that holiday party time is in full swing.
How many holiday parties do you usually attend? Between Dan and I, we’re invited to at least five different professional shindigs and usually two or three friends/family parties every year. Because of that, we’ve never hosted one ourselves but have always wanted to.
Thus, I’m living vicariously through my hosts and thinking about what I would serve at my ideal holiday party. An epic cheese platter like this one, for sure, as well as various dips and munchies and…of course…cocktails (these two are great for the holidays). And you know what else would be on my menu? SOUP.
I know. It may sound weird so serve soup at a party. BUT, really, you shouldn’t be surprised that I would suggest such a thing. Soup practically runs through my veins. I’m sure you guys are sick of me talking about it. But when it comes to parties, soup is actually a very easy and practical thing to serve! And you can set it up buffet style with a whole slew of toppings so that people can customize their bowls. Doing this makes soup feel fancy! And the holidays are all about making us feel fancy, right?
This soup would work perfectly for a holiday party. Not only does it hold up fantastically in a slow cooker (SO CREAMY AND DREAMY), but it’s oh so festive once topped with fried sage, grated parm, and pomegranate arils (Christmas colors!). Oh, and not to mention buttery and slightly sweet cornbread croutons. Gah.
Oh, and it’s delicious, too. Which of course is the most important thing.
Confession time: I’ve never been a huge fan of parsnips. My dad, on the other hand, is a HUGE fan. At every holiday meal, he insists on having some odd root vegetable on the table. Rutabagas. Turnips. Or parsnips. Until I had them roasted very recently, I always turned my nose up at parsnips. They were a tad too…peppery for me. But when cooked for a little while in some sweet onions and then mellowed out with some half-and-half, I rather love them. I mean, the half-and-half is kind of a cheat. It makes everything taste good! Parsnip haters, you should try them in a creamy soup. You might change your mind!
But really, can we just take a moment to acknowledge how freaking PRETTY this soup is?! It’s the prettiest darn soup I’ve ever seen. Which makes it even more appropriate for a holiday party.
I’ve opted to make this soup with bacon because…well…BACON. And the holiday season screams for bacon. However! If you wanted to keep this vegetarian for your guests, you could leave the bacon out of the soup (cook it in a separate pan and serve it as an optional topper!) and switch out the chicken stock to veggie. Voile! Vegetarians will be happy.
I’m loving this idea of setting out all the possible toppings for people to customize their bowls of soup. It’s all so fun. I hope one of our hosts gets my not-so-subtle memo. SOUP IS WHERE IT’S AT!
The only thing missing? Mini grilled cheeses to dunk right on in there.
Let’s remedy that, shall we?
8 oz bacon, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely diced
4 large parsnips, peeled and finely diced
2 stalks of celery, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Russet potato, peeled and diced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
11/2 cups half-and-half
Crispy sage leaves
Grated parmesan cheese
Finely chopped herbs such as parsley or chives
In a large pot or Dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from pot and reserve as optional serving topping.
To the bacon drippings, add the oil and butter. Add the sage leaves and cook until crispy, about 2 minutes. Remove and reserve for optional serving topping.
Add the onion, parsnips, celery, and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.
Add in the broth, red pepper flakes, and potato and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes or until the vegetables and potato are very tender.
Carefully blend soup in pot using an immersion blender or by transferring it, in batches, to a standard blender. Blend until completely smooth.
Stir in the half-and-half and taste for seasonings.
Pour warm soup into a crock pot and keep warm on the LOW or WARM setting. Set a ladle and serving bowls alongside, as well as little dishes of optional toppings, including the reserved bacon and sage leaves, as well as cornbread croutons, pomegranate arils, grated parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs.
For the cornbread croutons, you can definitely make your own from scratch (or use regular bread instead of cornbread – I like the cornbread for a touch of sweetness and color). For this type of party recipe, though, I take help from the store when I can. I buy bakery cornbread and cut it into small cubes. Then, I toss the cubes with a little olive oil and salt and bake in a 400°F oven for 10-12 minutes or until they are toasted and golden. They are my favorite topping for this particular soup.