You are cordially invited to participate in “Soup’s On!”
a contest where everyone’s a winner!
Contenders are asked to bring:
* homemade soup in a crock pot or pot
* a ladle
* the recipe
Take-home containers, salad, bread and plenty of wine will be provided.
We will all taste the soups and vote on our favorite.
The winner is awarded the prize money. Everyone goes home with containers of soup for their freezer.
Any kind of soup is “legal”–but it must be homemade.
This was the invitation that went out to about a dozen friends, some of my earliest blog-supporters, so they were well aware that they’d likely be fodder for an upcoming post. The party concept came from my fabulous sister-in-law, Romy, who lives in Boise. As soon as I heard the idea, I knew I’d have to replicate it here on the East Coast. As a matter of fact, my mother and sister are doing the same in their respective hometowns–it’s a full-on family affair.
The idea is straight-forward and to be honest, with the timing being early March (thereby having several months of soup under our belts), I assumed that all of my friends would immediately know which recipe they’d be bringing. As it turned out, this was not the case. Friend after friend would check-in during the two weeks prior to contest night to share which soups they’d tested, tweaked and ruled out. No one had a “go to” that they believed was a winner. To my delight, the “contestants” were giving this whim their all and we were going to have some incredible soups to judge.
In preparation, I bought a dozen glass ramekins for tasting, created “Tasting Notes” sheets, made a big salad and a couple of appetizers. I was sure to have plenty of spoons and pens, and I bought prizes for the second and third place winners. As each guest arrived, carefully balancing their pots and special garnishes, I had them label their creation with a number and recipe title. Once everyone was settled, it was game on!
I explained that each person was to hold onto their small bowl, spoon and “Tasting Notes.” They could go around the kitchen to taste the soups in whatever order they chose, taking careful notes so their first, second and third place selections were clear in the end. My guests decided that they should each “introduce” their soup, sharing ingredients, technique, and explanations for the assembled toppings.
What a bounty! We had a wide variety of soups with no repetition and plenty of originality.
- Tuscan White Bean with Vegetables
- Tomato-Basil Crab Bisque
- Mushroom Soup with Winter Vegetables
- Cream of Pumpkin Soup
- Lentil Vegetable Soup
- Watercress-Cauliflower Soup
- Leeky Potato Soup
- Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
- Christmas Chowder, a family recipe–3rd place winner
- Pumpkin Curry Soup garnished with sour cream, cashews and chopped bananas–2nd place winner
- and the big winner…Roasted Potato Leek Soup with bragging rights going to my friend, Kristin
The Roasted Potato Leek Soup was from Barefoot Contessa “Back to Basics.” It’s an incredible recipe that was pretty much the unanimous favorite among our group. While it’s the perfect recipe to serve for company or on special occasions (or in a soup contest!), I couldn’t in good conscience serve the soup, as is, to my family on a regular basis. And it’s that good, that I know I want it in my winter rotation. So, I experimented a bit and replaced the original 3/4 cup heavy cream with fat-free half and half and substituted the 8 oz. creme fraiche with a cup of non-fat plain Greek yogurt. I kept the Parmesan and crispy shallots because hey, life is short. Enjoy!
- 2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
- 4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts, cleaned carefully* (3-4 leeks)
- 1/4 cup good olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups baby arugula, lightly packed
- 1/2 cup dry white wine, plus extra for serving
- 6 to 7 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (can substitute vegetable stock)
- 3/4 cup fat-free half and half
- 8 oz. non-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
- Crispy Shallots, recipe follows, optional
- Preheat the over to 400F. Combine potatoes and leeks on a sheet pan in a single layer. Add the olive oil, 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper and toss to coat the vegetables evenly. Roast for 40 to 45 minutes, turning them with a spatula a few times during cooking, until very tender. Add the arugula and toss to combine. Roast for 4 to 5 more minutes, until the arugula has wilted. Remove pan from the over and place over two burners. Stir in the wine and 1 cup of chicken stock and cook over low heat, scraping up any crispy roasted bits sticking to the pan.
- In batches, transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor fitted with the steel blade, adding the pan liquid and about 5 cups of the chicken stock to make a puree. Pour the puree into a large pot. Continue to puree the vegetables in batches until they're all done and combined in the large pot. Add enough of the remaining 1 to 2 cups of stock to make a thick soup. Add the half-and-half, Greek yogurt, 2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper and check the seasonings.
- When ready to serve, reheat the soup gently and whisk in 2 Tbls white wine and 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Serve hot with an extra grating of Parmesan and crispy shallots, if using, which I highly recommend!
- *My favorite way to clean leeks is to cut away the dark green leafy tops (I'm sure there are many uses for these but I generally toss them in the trash). Slice the light green/white cylinder lengthwise down the middle. Quickly rinse. Then slice the leeks into half-moons and place in a large bowl of cold water. When all the leeks are floating in the bowl give them a good massage with your hand, being careful not to disturb the bottom third of the bowl. When the leeks are thoroughly rinsed remove with fingers or a slotted spoon onto a paper towel to dry. When you empty the bowl you will find all of the dirt settled on the bottom.
- Crispy Shallots**
- makes about 1/2 cup
- 1 1/2 cups olive or vegetable oil
- 3 Tbls unsalted butter
- 5 to 6 shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings
- Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until it reaches 220F on a candy thermometer. Reduce the heat to low, add the shallots, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are a rich golden brown. The temperature should stay below 260F. Stir the shallots occasionally to make sure they brown evenly. Remove them from the oil with a slotted spoon, drain well and spread out to cool on paper towels. Once they have dried and crisped, they can be stored at room temperature, covered, for several days.
- **If you decide to skip this somewhat labor-intensive step, a fantastic packaged alternative is Lars' Own Crispy Onions. They are sold at Whole Foods, gourmet stores and can even be purchased through Amazon. If you buy a container I guarantee that you'll be sprinkling them on everything.