What is it about tomato soup that is so comforting and nostalgic? Perhaps its that tomatoes are essentially just really creatively constructed simple sugars that break down to sweet, complex flavors when you add heat. Perhaps its that adding cream to anything can make it taste better. Or maybe its because it reminds us all of the simple Sesame Street kind of days.
Whatever the reason for tomato soup being so gosh darn good, I wanted to make it like a grown up and eat it like a grown up......with wine, while watching Anthony Bourdain. The only thing that could have made it better was if I had eaten it out of my Mmm Mmm Good! bowl.
This recipe is one of my first ever truly "made up" recipes. Frankly, I found lots of recipes that sounded good, but it wasn't what I was looking for. I must have scanned at least 30 recipes from Epicurious, AllRecipies, Gourmet, etc. In the end this is mostly inspired by Ina Garten's recipe for Roasted Tomato Basil Soup.
4 pounds tomatoes- I used a variety of whole, red, yellow and cherry
2 red peppers, cleaned and cut into wedges
6 cloves of garlic, cleaned and peeled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
generous fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup good quality olive oil
1/2 cup chicken or veggie stock
2 tablespoons sherry or white wine (you could probably also use vodka!)
1 tablspoon butter
2 finely diced shallots
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 large handful washed and torn basil leaves
2 springs italian parsely
Several sprigs of dill for garnish
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Place your prepared tomatoes, peppers and garlic in a shallow baking pan and coat with the olive oil, salt and a few cranks of the pepper mill. Toss gently and put it in the oven to roast for about 40-50 minutes. When you take it out, let it cool for a solid 25 minutes to release and coagulate the yummy juices. In the meantime, wash and chop your basil and shallot.
Dump the contents of the baking pan (roasted tomato, pepper, garlic and all the liquid that has accumulated) plus the basil and parsely into the bowl of a food processor and process until its as smooth as you like it. I prefer it totally smooth, but you might prefer a rough, chunky chop. Let stand while you heat the butter in a medium sized pot (5 quarts is perfect). When the butter foams, drop into your finely chopped shallots and sautee for about 2 minutes to caramelize. Dump in your wine or spirit to deglaze the pan, then add the tomato puree. Bring it to a simmer and add the chicken stock. Let it simmer gently for about 20 minutes to thicken. Right before you are ready to serve, add the cream with a french whisk and let simmer a minute more to thicken. Garnish with dill and croutons.
The croutons are simple; they just require an appaling amount of olive oil. Start this in the morning or night before by cutting your bread to the desired size and letting them sit out to stale. In a bowl combine about 1/3 cup olive oil (for half loaf bread) with garlic powder, salt, pepper, thyme and dried oregano. Drizzle that over the bread as you toss quickly to evenly coat. Dump them on a flat baking sheet and stick them in the oven at 400 for about 20-25 minutes. The best time to put them in the oven is right when you take out your tomatoes!
I think a little yogurt or sour cream would also be excellent on top of this soup. Or a fat grilled cheese for dipping!