Now that the temperatures are cooling, your clients will be looking for some comforting and cozy recipes to keep them warm during your event. Fortunately, comfy soups and stews are heating up menus everywhere, but they’re a far cry from the chicken noodle and New England clam chowders of yesteryear.
“We have seen the charcuterie trend come and go, salads have lasted the test of time, but what I see going into the fall of 2022 is the resurgence of an elevated soup presentation,” Chef Jason Sutton (Footers Catering) says. “This allows chefs to have an impressively artistic approach to an empty canvas and leaving hints to the meal about to be presented.”
While soups have always been a starter or side dish staple, they’re starting to make a play to become the next main dish star. Many soup fans are looking for diversity in their liquids, including ingredients to global influences (pho, ramen, and pozole for example), as well as everything from nutritional profiles to sustainable sourcing.
Tomato basil soup with coconut oil, vegetable stock, and coconut milk from Suki Otsuki, Owner & Chef, Four Dimensions Retreats, Dallas, TX. Photo courtesy The Perfect Purée
“Soup is so fun and often under-utilized in the world of catering, but actually is so versatile,” says Lisa Ware (Owner, Catering by Michaels). “Soup is packed with flavor and often a great way to incorporate some nostalgia into your catered event. Soup is like a warm hug from you to your guests.”
Here are a few trends, according to taste.com, that menus will be waving this fall and winter.
There’s nothing quite like the flavors of fall: Pumpkin, squash, cinnamon, and ginger. There’s just something about those flavors that instantly warms you up. However, these always-popular flavors are getting a bit of a makeover on menus. Try them with a Thai twist, top them with savory garnishes or add some sweetness with a swig of cider and some crispy apple croutons.
Light it up
Some consumers are opting for lighter versions of their favorite soups made with green vegetables (pea, zucchini, and broccoli), coconut-based broths and soups with extra citrus.
A meal in a bowl
Beef up your soups with the addition of hearty ingredients: think paella-soup mashup, lamb shanks tossed into simple tomato or a bulked-out broth with gnocchi or rice. Also, don’t forget about the ever-popular chili or stew options. Your appetizer or side suddenly becomes a filling dinner.
Marcia Selden Catering & Events’ Boursin Panna Cotta with Sunchoke Bisque and Crispy Garlic Chips. The soup is poured tableside which makes for a beautiful presentation. Photo courtesy Julie Bidwell
Cheese can be a great addition to several different kinds of soup, but the breakout star when it comes to cheese is obviously French onion. You can even make this fall-time favorite vegan by using plant-based cheese as an alternative.
This Pho Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup is made with flank steak, honey, fresh ginger, star anise, rice stick noodles, bean sprouts, fresh basil, fresh cilantro, and green onion. photo courtesy Beef. it’s what’s for dinner
Use your noodle
Asia probably has one of the biggest impacts on the world of soups thanks to ramen, pho, tom yum, tom kha gai, and laksa. Who doesn’t love a soup that requires a spoon, fork, and chopsticks to consume it?
Healthy and hearty
It’s easy to check off your daily intake of vegetables, proteins, and spices (stuffed with antioxidants and lots of fiber) with a single bowl of soup. It may seem like an oxymoron, but it is possible to have a soup that is both nutritious and delicious.
Cold and chilled soups are also making a splash as a refreshing and healthy appetizer option during summer events.
“A noticeable soup trend is serving soup in the summer months more than in fall and winter,” says Desiree Jones with DSquared Hospitality Company (Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes). “Our theory is that event attendees are already making soups at home in the colder months, but rarely are they whipping up their own gazpacho in the summer. A summer soup is inherently more novel and a great vehicle for bright and fresh flavors!”
It’s no secret that everyone is looking for nostalgia, and soups are no exception. Whether it’s potato and leek, chicken and dumplings, or tomato, chefs are bringing back old school soups to their menus.
“Even though they want the comfort and memory of those dishes,” says Chef Dewey Losasso (Bill Hansen Catering), “they also want to have a cleaner, more modern approach.”
Chicken & Dumpling Soup made with RITZ Crackers. Recipe and photo courtesy Mondelēz International Foodservice
Joanie Powell (Chef by Design) agrees. “Our clients are looking for comfort, a sense of nostalgia, and nourishment,” she says.
Make it fun
Another big fall trend for soups and stews will be to incorporate them into hors d’oeuvres, late night snacks, and stations. Think: little trio of soups in tiny mugs, the requisite tomato with the tiny grilled cheese, the gazpacho with the little bottle of tequila, according to Kathleen Stoehr (Director of Community & Content Strategy for Informa Connect). "I tested the Avocado Gazpacho from Pinch. It's perfect as a shooter. No more than an ounce, liquid sunshine."
Tomato Bisque Soup Sips with Mini Grilled Cheese Triangles from DSquared Hospitality Company (Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes). Photo courtesy Rebecca Ellison
“Serving soups and stews in fun vessels that are easy to carry like shot glasses and martini glasses are a great way to incorporate soup favorites outside of the traditional starter course,” says Reuben Bell (Blue Elephant Events & Catering). “New England Clam Chowder in a tall shot glass with a perfectly placed oyster cracker makes a great presentation. Chilled fruit soups and gazpacho make refreshing shooters in the summertime as well.”
Jones of DSquared agrees. “Sans spoons, soup sips are effortlessly adorable and make for a more trendy and exciting way to eat soup,” she says.
At Footers, they pour their soups tableside for extra impact.
“A quenelle of Honey Goat Cheese Mousse sits in the corner of the dish with torn basil and fresh cracked pepper leaving the blank space for the silky orange and gold soup to be poured beautifully on top as the grissini cracker slowly starts to stir the flavor together,” Sutton says of their tableside butternut squash soup.
Bell also suggests setting up a soup or chowder station as a fun action station for a wedding or corporate event. Offer several choices and serve them out of bread bowls with a variety of toppings.
Over at DSquared, they have a wedding in fall 2022 where the grooms are making soup the star. “The grooms will be both making, and serving, a soup course to their guests out of soup bowls they are making themselves, which will then serve as the take-home gifts,” Jones says.
These soup recipes are guaranteed to heat up your winter. “Let your guests enjoy playing with their food as you present a highly elevated form of one of the most humble and classic dishes known to mankind, the soup,” Sutton says. Bon Appetit!
Curried Kabocha Squash Soup
Recipe and photo courtesy DSquared Hospitality Company (Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut squash into wedges and clean out seeds, drizzle with 1 T of oil and season. Roast for 30-40 minutes until tender. When cool enough to handle, scoop the meat away from the skin.
- In a large sauce pot sauté onion in 2 T of oil until translucent. Add all the rest of the spices and cook for another minute or two until fragrant.
- Add cooked squash and cover with stock, simmer for 12 minutes. Use stick blender to puree. Add cream and adjust seasoning. Strain to remove any chunky bits and cool until needed.
- Garnish with marshmallows.
Ingredients for Lemongrass Marshmallows
- Begin by making tea with one lemongrass stick chopped up and a cup of water. Simmer to infuse for 20 minutes then drain and chill (you only need .33 cup of lemongrass water, reserve the rest for another use).
- In a small bowl mix the gelatin with .33 cup of lemongrass water and let stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile spray a hotel pan with pan spray and lightly dust with cornstarch (6 tsp) tapping out excess.
- In a small saucepan mix the sugar with .33 cup of water and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the corn syrup and cook over medium high heat without stirring until 260 degrees on the candy thermometer. Once off the heat, stir in the gelatin mixture until dissolved.
- In a stand mixture beat egg whites until soft peaks form. With the machine running, drizzle in the hot syrup slowly in a steady stream down the side of the bowl and scrape into prepared pan to let set for three hours.
- Cut with a sharp knife. Sift and mix remaining cornstarch (.66 cups) and powdered sugar thoroughly. Toss marshmallows in the sifted cornstarch and powdered sugar mix.
- Float on top of the squash soup.
Elote Street Corn Soup
Recipe and photo courtesy Catering by Michaels
Yield: 5 gallons
- In a large pot over medium heat, melt butter; add onion, minced jalapeno and garlic and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add flour, cumin, and chili powder and cook for 2 minutes.
- Whisk in chicken broth and bring to a boil.
- Add grilled corn kernels, sugar, and salt and pepper and return to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add cream and cilantro and stir to combine and heat through but do not boil.
- Serve topped with bacon, queso fresco, and jalapenos.
Parsnip Soup with Vanilla Bean Creme Fraiche
Recipe and photo courtesy The Butler’s Pantry
(approximately 1½ T)
- Preheat a medium non-reactive pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Allow it to heat for a moment then stir it around to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaf and thyme. Turn the heat to medium-low and sweat the onions stirring occasionally until soft without browning.
- Add the parsnips covered with the water. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook uncovered for about 45 minutes or until the parsnips are soft.
- Remove the bay leaf and thyme then add the salt and the rest of the contents of the pot to a blender and puree until smooth. Stir in the cream and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Ingredients for Vanilla Bean Creme Fraiche
- Slice the vanilla bean in half. Scrape the bean and add the contents to the creme fraiche. Save the outside of the vanilla bean for another application. Whisk the salt, creme fraiche and vanilla bean together. Slowly add the water and stir until it is a syrupy consistency.
- Add a spoon or two of creme fraiche to each bowl of soup.
Method for Crispy Focaccia
- Slice the focaccia evenly, lightly brush with extra virgin olive oil and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until a light golden brown, approximately 10 minutes.
Ingredients for Lemon Whipped Ricotta
Method for Fried Parsnips
- Peel parsnips with a vegetable peeler and fry in a 280-degree fryer constantly stirring until the bubbles slow and the color darkens on the parsnips—season with salt and pepper.
Maine Lobster Stew
Recipe and photo courtesy Blue Elephant Catering & Events
- Steam the lobsters and shred the meat. Leave a third of the lobster in larger chunks. It doesn’t have to be pretty. In fact, the messier the better for this recipe.
- Pan-fry the shredded lobster in 6 tablespoons of butter until lightly browned. You will know it’s ready when it turns a warm orange color and is warmed through. Be careful not to burn the butter.
- In a Dutch oven, heat the milk, being careful not to boil it. Add lobster to hot milk and cook slowly for 8-10 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and bring nearly to a boil. Lower heat and add salt and pepper to taste and paprika for color. Add a dash of sherry if desired. Sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Champignon and Walla Walla Onion Soup with Nurishh® Plant-Based Parmesan Crust
Recipe courtesy Chef Thomas Horner, Marriott
- Caramelize the onions in a medium pot.
- Add the mushrooms and sweat them.
- Add the sherry to deglaze the pot and cover. Simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add the base and 1 cup water.
- Add the thyme and season to taste with salt. Simmer until the soup reaches the desired consistency.
- Portion the soup into bowls. Cover each with a crouton and ¼ cup plant-based Parmesan cheese.
- Place under the broiler until cheese starts to melt and achieves the desired color.
- Top with chopped parsley and cracked pepper and serve immediately.
Recipe and photo courtesy Catering by Michaels
Yield: 5 gallons
Ingredients for broth
- In a dry pan, toast coriander, cloves, anise, black peppercorns and cinnamon for 5 minutes on medium heat, being careful not to burn.
- Remove spices from heat.
Ingredients for five-spice pork
- In a large pot, combine toasted spices, chicken stock, pork bones, onion, ginger, sugar, fish sauce, garlic and jalapeno.
- Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
- Simmer for 2–3 hours, then remove from heat and strain liquid, discarding solids.
- To make the pork, combine five spice, kosher salt and black pepper together.
- Season the pork on all sides, using all of the mixture.
- Heat vegetable oil in a hot sauté pan and sear the pork on all sides.
- Transfer pork to a hotel pan, cover with foil, and cook in a 300 degree oven for about 2 hours, or until pork is tender.
- Cool until manageable and then shred.
- Serve broth with pork and desired mix-ins.
Recipe courtesy Pinch Food Design
Yield: 4 servings
- In mixing bowl, toss cucumbers, onion, garlic, and jalapeno with salt. Let sit 30 minutes.
- Add lime juice, vinegar and oil and pour the whole mixture into blender and puree.
Add avocado and cilantro and puree again until creamy.
Recipe and photo courtesy Chef by Design
- Quarter tomatoes and onion
- In a large mixing bowl, combine ingredients with 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and a liberal amount of salt
- Roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes
- Remove from oven and allow to cool
- In a large pot, add 6 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Stir until butter has melted and sugar has dissolved. As butter begins to brown, add one cup of sherry
- Reduce for two minutes, add vegetables and liquid. Add an additional 46 oz of liquid (water, chicken stock, vegetable broth). Bring to gentle boil and reduce heat to simmer for 20–30 minutes
- Add 1 cup heavy cream and ¼ cup fresh basil
- Blend with immersion blender until smooth
- Season to taste
- Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil and roughly chopped flat leaf parsley.
- Serve with a crusty baguette.
Recipe and photo courtesy Catering by Michaels
Yield: 5 gallons
In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add the chicken thighs and breasts, season with kosher salt and black pepper, cook until the chicken begins to take on some color.
Once the chicken is browned, add the onions and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add chipotle peppers and mix until combined.
Add chicken stock, hominy, and corn. Season the soup with kosher salt and black pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, then skim the top. Allow to continue to simmer for about 30 minutes until the chicken is fully cooked through.
Serve with fried tortilla strips, cilantro, and lime wedges.