Weekend Soup: Creamy Tomato with Herb Toasts
I usually make soup for us every weekend, and this weekend’s recipe came from the new issue of Cook’s Illustrated magazine — a velvety smooth, deep reddish-orange creamy tomato soup.
I really love tomato soup in general, and cream of tomato soups more, but I hadn’t thought of making it lately since we’re out of tomato season. One solution is just to buy a can of tomato soup at the store, but trust me — even though this is a bit more work, it is well worth the effort (of course, that holds true for any homemade soup!)
Something I love about Cook’s Illustrated magazine is that they don’t just give you the recipe; they give you an in-depth description of how they arrived at that recipe — every variation on ingredients they tried, all the different methods they experimented with, etc. It’s interesting to see the “why” behind a recipe; it gives you a better understanding of how ingredients work together and how a particular method yields a certain kind of results. I love these kinds of details when it comes to food!
So for this soup, since tomatoes are out of season right now, you use canned whole tomatoes (I like Muir Glen organic tomatoes), which you roast — the sugar in their skins caramelizes during roasting, which gives you those good, robust, deep flavors. The solids are pureed separately from the tomato broth. This is slightly more work than my usual preferred method of blitzing the entire contents of the soup pot with my handy dandy immersion blender, but the rationale behind it was to eliminate the extra aeration you’d get from pureeing solids and liquids together (which, according to the magazine article, resulted in a “circus orange” color. Not that appealing). The resulting soup is a deep red-orange, silkily smooth, and finished with some cream and a glug of sherry or brandy. I served it with some slices of crusty bread, spread generously with herb-infused olive oil and toasted.
The recipe makes enough for 4 generous/5 average servings, so double it if you want to have more to save for later (and you will want to have more for later!)
Ultimate Cream of Tomato Soup
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, Winter 2008
Ingredients (for 4-5 servings)
For the Soup:
2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes, packed in juice (preferably organic)
1 1/2 tbsp dark brown sugar
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2/3 cup minced shallots
1 tbsp tomato paste
pinch ground allspice
2 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or homemade stock if you have it)
1/2 cup heavy cream, plus a tiny bit more for garnish
2 tbsp brandy or sherry
coarse salt and pepper
For the Herb Toasts (4 servings)
4-8 slices of crusty bread, such as baguette or ciabatta (4 if slices are large, 8 if doing smaller slices)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp chopped mixed fresh herbs – anything you like or have on hand; parsley, thyme, oregano, chives, basil, etc.
pinch of crushed red pepper
1-2 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
coarse salt and pepper
To make the soup:
Preheat the oven to 450 and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Open the cans of whole tomatoes and drain them in a colander, catching the juice in a large bowl — set the bowl with the juice aside. Using your hands, squeeze the tomatoes gently to remove any excess juice and seeds (which you should discard) and place the seeded tomatoes in another bowl. Reserve 3 cups of the tomato juice you caught when draining the tomatoes and set aside.
Place the seeded tomatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle them evenly with the brown sugar. Roast for about 30 minutes, until they’re starting to color.
Meanwhile, heat the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan until it starts to foam, then add the shallot, tomato paste, and allspice. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shallot softens, about 7 minutes. Add the flour and stir until it’s blended in, then gradually whisk in the chicken stock/broth. Next, add the reserved 3 cups tomato juice and the roasted tomatoes. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let this mixture simmer about 10 minutes to blend the flavors.
Strain the soup into a medium bowl and wipe out the saucepan. Add the tomatoes and solids from the strainer into a food processor or blender, add 1 cup of the strained liquid, and blitz until smooth. Place the pureed mixture back into the saucepan, along with the strained liquid, and stir to combine together. Add the cream and heat over low heat until hot, then turn off the heat and stir in the brandy or sherry. Taste and season with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed. Garnish with a little drizzle of heavy cream (see picture.)
To make the herb toasts:
Preheat oven to 450 (if you’ve just roasted the tomatoes, just leave the oven on and make the toasts before serving the soup).
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat until warm, then add the freshly chopped herbs, minced garlic, and crushed red pepper. Turn off the heat and let this mixture steep for about 10-15 minutes.
Spread the slices of bread in one layer on a baking sheet. Brush generously with the olive oil mixture, making sure to get the fresh herbs onto the bread. Sprinkle each slice of bread with coarse salt and pepper, and place into the oven to crisp up a little — this usually takes about 10 minutes for me, but keep your eye on them and cook them until they’re toasted as much as you like.
Serve alongside a bowl of the soup.