Last Thanksgiving, instead of sitting down to a table crowded end-to-end with turkey and side dishes, we decided to start with a first course.
It’s not as if we were making culinary history. Ancient Greeks kicked off their festivities with bits of fish and cheese and Renaissance chefs did the same thing with thin rolls of grilled veal. All we had in mind was soup.
But it couldn’t be just any soup. Because of the last minute bedlam that usually hits the Thanksgiving kitchen, we needed a recipe that could be made ahead and served without fuss. Whatever we chose, it had to be more interesting than broth but nothing too filling.
We wanted a starter that would introduce the meal, but let everyone know it was just to rev up their appetite. In other words, something light. Chowders and cream soups were the first things that came to mind, and after bouncing ideas around, we settled on butternut squash tomato bisque.
The starchy winter squash would give the bisque the texture of a chowder and puréeing it would give the “creaminess” of cream soup, but without cream. The bisque that we ended up with was a snap to put together. The combination of bright orange squash and red tomatoes made it a gorgeous pumpkin color, and the simple tomato garnish dressed it up.
Our Thanksgiving family had no trouble figuring out the ingredients: squash, onion, tomatoes and broth. They missed the maple syrup, which enhanced the sweetness of the vegetables, but that was OK. What mattered was that when they finished their last spoonfuls, they were ready for the rest of the holiday dinner.
—By Jean Kressy