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Soup for a Group; I'm looking for soups that can be made ahead and held for 4-6 hours before serving

We're hosting a group on a Sunday afternoon and planning Soup for Supper afterward. For logistical reasons, I will not have kitchen access until serving time; our open kitchen will interfere with the planned musical program. I am seeking ideas for several, 4-6, soups that can be made ahead and held - either in CrockPots or low oven(s) - for hours without significant loss of quality. I don't want them to be all creamy or all meat or all anything. I would like a nice mix of ingredients and textures. Garnishes can be made ahead and held in the fridge or counter. I am blanking on ideas and need your help.

So far, I have thought about some of these:
Butternut Squash-Sweet Potato
Italian Wedding
Fresh Pea & Split Pea
Chicken Noodle
"Cream of Green" (our name for vegetable soup which varies w/ ingredient)
Clam & Corn Chowder
Black Bean w/Sherry

I have discarded:
Shrimp Bisque (I think the shrimp will toughen with the time involved)
Asparagus (I fear the asparagus will be very overcooked)
Egg Drop (everything will be overcooked)

I am looking forward to basking in the brilliance and great ideas of the CH community. I seem to be brain-dead on this one.

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  1. We often do an informal soup smorgasbord for large groups. Our standard trilogy is:

    Vichyssoise (either plain or with broccoli pureed along with the potatoes)
    Chicken tortilla soup

    Its a nice variety of textures and flavors. I'd think that all 3 would hold just fine for hours at low temperature.

    1 Reply
    1. re: masha

      Tortilla soup is really easy and really good after it sits a bit. Fun garnishes are avocado cubes, tortilla strips, sour cream, chopped onion, whatever

    2. Have you considered boeuf bourguignon? Everything up to the oven time can be done ahead of time and it can be refrigerated. Then you just need to pop your dutch oven into the oven for 4ish hours.

      1. How about a minestrone without pasta--it gets better with time and don't forget the Parmigiano rinds. (On the asparagus soup--mine is always cream of asparagus so overcooking is not really anymore of an issue than with the broccoli soup, no?)

        2 Replies
        1. re: escondido123

          If you want pasta in the minestrone, just make the pasta separately and put it aside until shortly before you are ready to eat. Then add it into the soup, and it will not be overcooked.

          1. re: masha

            This is my suggestion as well. I use ditalini.

        2. I made the cauliflower soup from The Essential Pepin last night, and it was fabulous; the curry flavor was very subtle. I wasn't expecting much, just wanted to use up some cauliflower; my husband generally eschews anything cauliflower. We both loved this. It's super simple, I think it would hold well, and it would add a bit of variety.

          If you're interested I'll paraphrase how to do it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: nomadchowwoman

            Not the OP but I'd love to hear more. I have a beautiful orange cauliflower sitting at home begging to be turned into soup.

            1. re: tcamp

              Sure--I just posted this on the WFD thread.

              In 2 T. of a neutral oil (I used canola) in a lg. saucepan, saute 2 c. sliced onion and cook until they begin to just caramelize (CM: the onions cooking this long is a key, I think, to the deep flavor here--although Pepin directs you to saute for only 2-3 minutes). You then sprinkle 2 T. flour and 1 tsp. curry powder over the onions, and mix well. (I cooked this for 2-3 minutes.) Stir in 2 c. each of water and hicken stock (veg. if a vegetarian version is decided) and s & p to taste. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

              Then add cauliflower (I used a largish head that I had already steamed, but Pepin does not call for the pre-cooking; the cauliflower can be cooked directly in the soup), cored, and broken into florets. Bring back to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook gently for about 30 minutes (or until cauliflower mashes easily against the side of the pan).

              Puree mixture in a blender or food processor. (I used my immersion blender--note: if you make a lot of pureed soup and don't have an IB, put one on your wish list!) Return soup to pan. Stir in 2 T. unsalted butter and 1/2 c. heavy cream and reheat gently. (For those who may not want those added fat calories, you could reduce those amounts--or leave them out altogether. I tasted it w/out--not as rich or quite as delicious, but still thick and very tasty). Just before serving, sprinkle chopped parsley over the soup. (I forgot about the parsley and skipped this step). Serves 6.

              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                Thanks very much, I will be making that this weekend. I *do* have an IB. I don't use it every day but I consider it an essential.

          2. A soup such as split pea or lentil would work well. They are the kind of soups that are "better the next day." I'd advise against anything with potatoes or pasta in it - they both tend to get mushy. You also have the right idea of avoiding anything with seafood.

            1 Reply
            1. re: shoes

              But potato-based soups that get pureed (like a vichyssoise) would be fine.

            2. this roasted sweet potato soup has been my go-to:

              1 large sweet potato (about 1 pound)
              1 large yellow onion
              1 large granny smith apple
              1/2 bulb fennel
              2-3 cloves garlic, peeled
              2 tablespoons olive oil
              salt, pepper
              1 quart chicken or vegetable stock

              preheat oven to 450-degrees

              peel sweet potato, onion, apple (core apple) and cut into large chunks. place on baking sheet along with garlic cloves and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper.

              roast for 20-30 minutes until vegetables start to caramelize. transfer roasted vegetables to 3-quart sauce pan, add stock and simmer for 20 minutes.

              puree, check for seasoning and serve. freezes beautifully.

              makes 7 cups.

              1. Chili! If you want it to be more elegant you can do a white chicken chili. Always a crowd pleaser and can be gourmet.

                I love squash or root veg blended soups (like celery root or sweet potato or winter squash).

                I also made the eggplant soup that was in a chow "my go to" video. it was awesome and i can't wait to make it again.

                1. Gulyasleves (Goulash soup - good hearty winter soup) - good with baguettes slathered in butter.
                  I have a recipe.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: rosetown

                    I'd love to see your recipe. I made some recently with a recipe I googled. Pretty good but room for improvement.

                    1. re: tcamp

                      Suggestions for improvement are more than welcome :)

                      Gulyasleves (Goulash soup)

                      This is one of my go-to winter comfort foods.

                      ● 1 - 2 lbs collagen rich beef cubed varying between 1 and 2 inches
                      ● some lard or oil
                      ● 1 large onion diced
                      ● 1 clove garlic minced
                      ● 4 - 5 medium to large plum (Roma) tomatoes chopped,
                      ● 2 large red bell peppers sliced
                      ● 2 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
                      ● 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
                      ● 1/2 tsp ground black pepper or taste
                      ● 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
                      ● 1 carrot chopped
                      ● 2 stalks celery chopped (leafy is best)
                      ● 1 or 2 bay leafs
                      ● 2 to 3 large russet potatoes coarsely diced
                      ● In a large skillet, sear beef in lard and place in stock pot.
                      ● add tomatoes to the skillet and deglaze and add to stock pot.
                      ● add onion, red pepper, celery, garlic, carrot, salt, pepper, paprika, caraway seeds,
                      and bay leaf, together with 6 cups of water or beef stock to stock pot. Bring to boil
                      and then simmer for at least one hour. Taste and re-season. Add more paprika and
                      caraway seed if necessary. It should taste sweet and the caraway needs to assert
                      itself without being overpowering. Continue simmering until beef is very tender.
                      ● Add diced potato and simmer until done.

                      Meanwhile prepare Csiptke (dumplings):
                      ● 1egg, 1/4 tsp salt, 3 tbs flour, 1 tsp oil
                      Combine until thoroughly mixed. It should be very stiff. Pinch or spoon very small pieces
                      into the simmering soup. When they float they are done. Add chopped parsley if desired
                      and serve.

                      Goes well with sliced baguettes and butter.

                  2. it's not precisely a soup, but Ratatouille holds (and matures) beautifully. great topped with a dollop or two of ricotta and a shaving of parmesan.

                    i do a Chipotle Roasted Corn soup that i've posted a number of times on Chowhound that is also excellent.

                    1. Any soup that does not contain cream or cheese should be fine and will improve upon sitting in a crockpot for a while.

                      1. Ooh don't forget Mulligatawny!

                        1. I've used the Tuscan Bean and Swiss Chard soup recipe from epicurious many times. I made it with the ingredients stated the first time, but after I substituted 2 ham hocks for the pancetta and kale for the swiss chard. This and some bread on the side makes a great meal.

                          1. I made butternut squash soup yesterday using Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock's recipe Puree of Pumpkin Soup in The Gift of Southern Cooking. I let it simmer for a couple hours because the introduction states "If possible, prepare this pumpkin soup 1 or 2 days ahead of serving, and allow the flavors to deepen." You can add a little cream and sherry just before serving. I'll definitely cook this again.

                            1. seems most of the good ones have been covered already, save for these:
                              - wild mushroom
                              - roasted red pepper
                              - curried coconut with chickpeas
                              - coconut and red lentil

                              and for something different, you could add a chilled soup like white gazpacho to the mix.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                I appreciate those links, ghg--esp. for the wild mushroom as I am a nut for wild mushrooms and love WM soups.

                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                  that Silver Palate recipe is a classic, and really fabulous. doesn't even need the optional cream. i confess i haven't yet tried the one i posted from the NY Times (it's at the top of my "must-make" list), but i love all the ingredients in it and David Tanis' recipes have been great thus far.

                                1. I am partial to bean soups. I usually make the beans in the pressure cooker, then throw them in the crockpot with sauteed onions & spices and perhaps other veg. Sometimes smoked turkey, sausage or ham, water or stock. Very freeform, always delicious.

                                  1. lots of good ideas but I was surprised that your list doesn't look like it includes any soup with tomatoes in it. For a squash soup, I'd suggest a three sisters stew that contains tomatoes.

                                    1. OP here. I thank everyone for their helpful and thoughtful replies. I am narrowing my list thanks to your suggestions. Yes, I've eliminated pasta since I won't have the ability to do any last minute cooking and mushy soup is unacceptable. Potato soup is still a possibility since it would be pureed and 'mushy' won't be an issue. This party will be in December so I will eliminate summer, cold soups for now (though they would be a breeze for summertime).

                                      Several of you have replied "...I think this would work ...." or ".........this ought to be OK......." and the like. Has anyone ever done this kind of meal before? What did you learn? What worked well? What didn't?

                                      Masha, I never even thought of chili -- and I'm in the SW of the USA! I'll be banned for certain. Something that I should have mentioned in my original post is that all guests are bringing mugs. I'll provide soup spoons and hope to eliminate bowls entirely since I have more guests than bowls. Different breads, wine and cookies will round out what I'd hoped would be an easy menu. It's my way to head off the dreaded "Potluck" which I find to be a giant PITA. Until quite recently, I had never hosted a potluck but was talked into it as a group function for a club. "There's nothing for you to do but open your front door" I was promised.


                                      For each person who showed up self-contained (food, platter, serving pieces, etc.) three wanted platters, bowls, spoons et al not to mention specific requirements about oven time/temperature, refrigerator space, etc "Where do you keep your cheese knife?" "I need a 15" footed platter" "Are there any more pretty glass bowls for my fruit salad?" "Please slice the meat in even pieces" ETC. Yikes! Instead of a stress-free gathering, I ran my legs off trying to meet all requests. Later, I delivered "forgotten" pieces to their owners vowing not to repeat this experience. I know that I am in the minority because there are a whole lot of people who love potlucks. I'm just not one of them.

                                      Keep your suggestions coming. I appreciate all the thought you've put into this. GHG, do you think the wild mushroom soup is a contender? I haven't finalized the offerings yet and really appreciate that you-all have taken the time and energy to help.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Sherri

                                        GHG, do you think the wild mushroom soup is a contender?
                                        absolutely! it's delicious, seasonal, and actually quite light. if you use the Silver Palate recipe you can even cut back on the butter (i usually only use 3-4 Tbsp) and stir in some low- or fat-free evaporated milk at the end.

                                        1. re: Sherri

                                          We do a New Year's Day come as you are soup lunch. Last year, we had roasted tomato, chicken and wild rice, potato and this quick Hoppin' John Stew from Southern Living:


                                          The chicken and wild rice soup was cream base and didn't hold up well, so I'm thinking a squash or Wonderwoman's roasted sweet potato soup recipe above for this year. We do a large salad, put out assorted soup toppers like bacon, cheese, homemade croutons, etc, and I pull out all the baked goods we've either made or received as gifts for dessert and most get eaten.

                                        2. +1 voice on vichyssoise- no heating necessary, never fails
                                          also +1 on chili- gets better when held for awhile- even better if you make it the day before & reheat in a slow cooker!

                                          Actually, tortilla soup is ideal for an occasion like this too, so I'm really just echoing masha's first response I guess. Good suggestions all.

                                          How about a nice carrot soup? Potage Crecy or one of the carrot-ginger soups...