When we hosted the first Thanksgiving at our place, five years ago, we quickly realized what we were doing right and wrong and began learning from our mistakes. Don't buy a 25 lbs turkey for 10 people. Don't stuff the turkey, real chefs don't. Do use bacon whenever possible. Do try to grill something to make room in the oven. All very helpful, coming slowly to us from experience.
One thing we couldn't figure out how to do is keep everyone out of the kitchen. That is, until last year. We decided, give them soup. This way they are busy. This way they don't bother us. Well, it worked well enough last year. This year, being in our new home, with a smaller kitchen, we really wanted the soup strategy to work, but although everyone found it delicious, we still had to physically push people out of the kitchen.
Now I know you might be thinking, you made a Rachel Ray soup for Thanksgiving dinner? Yes. It sounded too interesting to pass up. And, I had a jar of roasted bell peppers in my fridge, just waiting to be used. Leeks and fennel were on sale. And I love orange soups. So hard to resist. It's like the world was telling me to make this soup. And I listened. Although the husband insisted I make it a day ahead so we can try it out and approve it. Needless to say, he approved it. So did everyone else.
Red-Pepper Fennel Soup
Serves 4, modified (only slightly) from Everyday with Rachel Ray
2 roasted red peppers, thinly sliced lengthwise
4 tablespoons butter
1 leek (white part only), thinly sliced crosswise
1 small bulb fennel with fronds, bulb finely chopped and fronds chopped for garnish
1 potato (1/2 pound)—peeled, halved and thinly sliced
2 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup sour cream
1) In a medium pot, place 4 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the leek and chopped fennel bulb and cook until lightly golden, about 10 minutes.
2) Add the roasted red peppers, the potato, broth, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the potato is tender, about 15 minutes.
3) Using an immersion or standing blender, working in batches if necessary, blend the soup until smooth. If desired, place a sieve over a large pot and strain the soup. Stir in the heavy cream and season with salt and pepper.
4) Dollop with sour cream, if desired, and top with the fennel fronds.