I recently served a great soup for a starter course, and wondered why I didn’t serve soups more often.
Is it because I generally think of soups only when the weather turns cooler? Probably, because I associate soup with fall and the feelings of comfort it brings.
I served a curried cauliflower soup, which was very filling. I made it with ground almonds and pureed cauliflower with curry to usher in fall and the lower drop in temperature. I served 4-ounce portions as I didn’t want to ruin dinner.
Of course, if you want to be a proper Emily Post hostess and serve soup, it’s actually its own course, not an appetizer. An appetizer would still come before the soup. As such, it should be served in a smaller cup. If soup is the main course, then use a fuller size bowl.
But I like changing things up a bit. Who says you have to follow the order? I say serve it in shot glasses with an accompanying shot of liquor that highlights the flavor profile. Use smaller bowls, such as a coffee or cappuccino cups, or martini glasses.
The idea of serving soups in bowls is long gone. Years ago, it was all the rage to serve soup in carved out bread bowl. Today, we see it in neon lighted bowls. Of course, coconut shells, carved out gourds, hollowed out fruit shells and anything that can be considered a “container” works, too. Even tiny crock pots make fun soup bowls.
For a new idea in feeding the crew, and even guests, try a soup buffet. Serve numerous small soups but with different toppings alongside so you can mix it up. Incorporate vegetarian and/or vegan options such as fruit or seafood soups for guests and crew who do not eat meat.
Why not get the crew involved and have a cook-off? Have the crew make their version of their comfort soup and present it for a themed night on board. The winner maybe gets a night off?
Soup doesn’t have to be complicated. A one-pot soup made in large batches such as chili or lentil soup can satisfy just as easily as a more complicated recipe. Get creative in the finishing of the soup by adding fried herbs, toasted nuts, or swirling in savory herbal purees, wine or liquor, or even cream or sour cream. Try savory and/or sweet croutons as a topper. Just make sure your finishing of choice compliments the soup and doesn’t distract from it.
Serve your soup on a tray with other soups in small batches with some pull-apart bread.
Some great soups or stews to make are the simplest such as French onion soup dripping with melted gruyere cheese and a large crouton, or simple beef daube provencal, but do experiment to try new combinations. Here are a few suggestions:
Fall squash with Thai seasonings, cauliflower, potato, curry,
Loaded potato soup that has bacon, potato, chives, cheddar, sour cream.
Spicy chili made with buffalo instead of ground beef.
Moroccan lamb stew, or the classic beef stew, but throw in more vegetables.
Smoky tri-pepper tortilla soup with chicken meatballs and beans.
Don’t forget the health benefits by adding 1/4 cup of quinoa, farro or bulgur, or even mixed wild rice for a healthier kick and a more satisfying meal. Experiment to find the right combination that satisfies the guests, crew and, most importantly, what you as the chef think makes the final cut.
Mary Beth Lawton Johnson is a certified executive pastry chef and Chef de Cuisine and has worked on yachts for more than 25 years. Contact her through www.the-triton.com/author/chefmarybethlawtonjohnson.