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Holiday favorites: Soups

Ris Lacoste's luscious Sweet Potato Bourbon Soup can be cooked, pureed and refrigerated a day in advance. Keep reading for the recipe. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

Serving soup at the beginning of this, of all meals, sends a strong signal: This is not going to be one of those every-man-woman-and-child-for-himself, dive-for-the-platters kind of Thanksgiving. There’s so much piling on to come, right? A soup course is a chance for everyone to focus on the flavors of one dish at the same time, while building anticipation for the meal ahead.

It’s easy to gravitate toward pumpkin or other winter squash soups this time of year: Not only are they perfectly in season, you probably have some around even if you weren’t planning on it. And the color seems tailor-made for the Thanksgiving table. (Actually, it’s probably the other way around, isn’t it? We want orange things at Thanksgiving because this harvest feast occurs when orange things are being harvested.)

You needn’t be limited to that, though. Plenty of other beautiful foods are in season now: Apples, carrots, cauliflower and sweet potatoes all provide the makings of warming soups for the holiday.

Because so much more food is on the docket, it makes sense to serve something relatively smooth; no chunky stews or chowders need apply. Here are some tried-and-true possibilities:

(Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Squash and pumpkin

Butternut Squash Soup With Spiced Pumpkin Seeds and Tart Apple (right). Not all holiday soups need to be richer than rich. This one is not just healthful, it's even vegan, with a crunchy garnish.

Sherried Pumpkin Apple Soup. This is Bonnie's go-to soup for the holidays. It's surprisingly light, but the flavor is rich and satisfying, meaning you can serve just a small amount.

Butternut Squash With Walnut Whiskey Butter. Now for something bigger, with heavy cream, booze and butter.

Cream of Butternut Squash Soup With Arborio Rice. From chef Roberto Donna, his grandmother's mild and sweet zuppa, thickened with rice and with a garnish of squash on top.

(Michael Williamson for The Washington Post)


Apple and Cheddar Soup With Roasted Apple Garnish (left). Count them: four kinds of dairy (butter, cheese, half and half and cream). That, plus layers of flavor from apple cider and many spices, gives this soup a luxurious punch.

Apple-Rutabaga Soup. From the inimitable chef Patrick O'Connell, a soup with the fresh, brilliant combination of maple syrup and cayenne pepper.

Curried Parsnip and Apple Soup. It's light, pretty, quick -- and can be made days in advance. What more could you want?

Everything else

(James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

Chestnut Soup With Green Peppercorn Mascarpone (right). For something truly elegant, chef Michael Mina gave us this gorgeous soup for a Christmas dinner story last year, but it could certainly fit the earlier holiday, too, especially if you're not a squash fan.

Three Cheddar Vegetable Soup. Cauliflower, potato, carrot and more combine with cheddars sharp and smoky.

Sweet Potato Bourbon Soup. That photo at the top of the blog entry says it all: This is a deliciously vibrant, picture-perfect soup from chef Ris Lacoste. She brightens it with orange, deepens it with a good dose of bourbon and garnishes it with sour cream, ham and pecans.

-- Joe Yonan

By Joe Yonan  |  November 13, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Recipes , Thanksgiving  | Tags: Joe Yonan, Thanksgiving, recipes, soups  
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Several of these recipes look very good - I will have to try one for the holidays.

I'm a big fan of the first course at Thanksgiving and Christmas. With my parents, it was almost always risotto (porcini mushrooms, though squash would work great), but occasionally there was soup instead. I've brought a squash soup to friends house when I haven't been able to join family and it's always well received. Since you can make it ahead and then reheat it on site, it's easy on the hosts too.

Posted by: ArlingtonSMP | November 13, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

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