Yield:8 servings (easily multiplied for larger parties) 1x
For the Soup:
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
For the Soup:
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.
For Party Style Serving:
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.