One of my favourite things to do on Halloween is to have friends and kiddos drop by for something hot and savoury. I thought how much fun this would be after football games, or really anytime you’d like to casually entertain and have plenty of time to visit with pals.
I have this triple crockpot/warmer that is perfect for such a theme (I picked it up on Amazon for less than $50). What I do is make a different, hot and satisfying soup or stew for each well. Then, I set out all the “fixins” so guests can make a bowl that suits them exactly. Think of it as a soup bar.
I love to offer creamy potato, tomato bisque and chicken chowder. Serve shredded cheddar, Parmesan and jalapeño jack cheeses. Then, fresh herbs: scallions, basil and cilantro. Finally, the true embellishments: crumbled bacon, garlic croutons, toasted pepitas and corn relish, sour cream, Tabasco, hot corn bread and dinner rolls or even a stack of grilled cheese sandwiches. So much fun to see everyone loading up their mugs/bowls and best of all, it’s self- serve, so you can enjoy the gathering, too.
Here are two of my favourite soups for cold weather:
Creamy Potato Soup
3# Yukon gold potatoes, chopped into 1” pieces 1/2# bacon, diced
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
5 cups chicken stock or broth
1 large onion (yellow or white), chopped 1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 cups milk
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 cup sour cream
A few dashes of Tabasco, to taste
1. Fry bacon over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven, removing to a plate lined with paper towels when browned (reserve the bacon to use as a garnish)
2. Add the chopped onion and butter and continue cooking over medium for about 3 minutes.
3. Add garlic and stir for about a minute, then whisk in flour.
4. Constantly whisk for another minute to combine.
5. Add remaining ingredients (except potatoes) and continue to whisk while bringing the
mixture to a boil.
6. As soon as it reaches a slow boil, reduce heat to medium and add potatoes.
7. Cook for about 10 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender.
8. At this point, you can remove (carefully) about half the soup to a blender and process until
smooth. I personally prefer to use my immersion blender and give the whole thing a few
pulses right in the pot. Let your personal preferences for chunkiness be your guide.
9. Let the soup simmer a few more minutes (10ish) before serving.
Pro Tip: When re-heating, be sure to stir constantly so the milky soup doesn’t scorch your pan.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 medium-sized carrots, diced
1 stalk of celery, lard, with leafy bits if you have them 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 large can of whole tomatoes in juice (28 oz) 1 cup stock (I use chicken or veggie)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano 1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper, as needed
1. Heat butter and oil in a soup pot or dutch oven.
2. Add onion, carrot and celery and sauté for 3 minutes.
3. Add garlic and sauté another minute, stirring so garlic doesn’t burn.
4. Add tomatoes, stock and spices.
5. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
6. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes
7. Puree soup in a blender (again, I use an immersion blender for this step and leave a few
chunks of tomato for texture.)
8. Add the heavy cream to the soup and serve.
Pro Tip: This is excellent with croutons and Parmesan, but also really good served in a toasted bread boule.
Pulling out sweaters and jeans this week has reminded me that with the change in weather, new, bolder wine selections are in order. With cool temps, we often want something that’s going to “warm us up.” In wine speak, that translates into heavier bodied, full-flavoured reds. For local readers, there’s a great little wine shop at the North East corner of 116th and Olio Road in Fishers called @TastefulTimes. You can find each of the wines I’ll mention at their place. They also have a fun selection of artisanal, local fare, which I love. Tell ‘em I sent you.
One of my very favourite varietals is inky, toffee-full Petit Sirah. For me, fall is permission to indulge! McManis ($12) makes this scrumptious, value-driven bottle. Dark black fruit is nearly overpowered with caramel and cocoa. Think about a dried blueberry covered in dark chocolate milk duds. The flavours are big, the finish is looong and the price is low. If you’ve never given Petit Sirah a try, this is a great jumping-off point. #
2017 “Fidelity” Red Wine, Crazy Creek, Alexander Valley will set you back just over $15. A Bordeaux-style blend (Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon), is a great value from California. The Merlot contributes flavours of ripe blueberries and cordial cherries. The Cab adds structure and a nice long finish while the Petit Verdot brings colour, tannin and a pretty whiff of violets to the table. New French Oak adds warm vanilla to this bright little number. #yummy
“Vindicated” Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County ($18) stands out as a deal. If you’ve traveled to this area, you’ll know what I mean when I say that this wine SMELLS like Sonoma. Bright and brambly right off the bat (think ripe with blackberries & raspberries) with a little cocoa and lots of warm wood in the background. And the tiniest hint of eucalyptus. Medium tannins and strong structure with 14.4% ABV will warm you right up. This wine tastes way more expensive than it is. #winning
As always, let me know what you think and Happy Fall, Y’all.
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.