Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheddar Crouton

When was the last time you enjoyed the classic combination of tomato soup and grilled cheese?  Last winter?  A few years ago??  Before you had a drivers license???  I will only assume that you have at least once in your life paired these items, a childhood classic.  If it's been a while, and you need something warm in your belly for the upcoming chilly fall nights, this is it.  If you've never dipped a melty grilled cheese into a bowl of steamy tomato soup, you have problems.  They even make serviceware for it. 

You are going to make this soup.  I repeat, you will be making this soup.  Sure, it takes some time- but it's not laborious.  It's so worth the time commitment.  This recipe combines tomato soup and grilled cheese into one, in the style of the fantastique soupe l'oignon

The garden is still kicking out tomatoes, those that haven't been canned already are being eaten daily in salads, on sammiches, and a bunch were used to make this soup.  If you don't have access to homegrown or farmers market tomatoes, try to find some heirloom varieties at a specialty grocer.  Although standard plum tomatoes will work too.

No fresh basil?  That's certainly optional, although tomatoes and basil are like Batman and Robin, they work so well together.  Don't have an obsession with garlic like we do?  Only use 1 or 2 cloves.  Tongue can't handle spicy food?  Reduce the amount of hot pepper chili flakes to 1/8 ts.  Of course the soup will be super ass hot right out of the oven, but don't let it sit around too long or your crouton will become mush.  Enjoy responsibly. 

If you don't have soup crocks, here's another yummy autumnal soup to justify gettin yourself a few.  But anything broiler-proof will do the trick. 

Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheddar Crouton
2 servings as main course, probably would serve 4 as a starter

3 lb heirloom plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 ts kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, about 1 ts (or 1/2 ts dried)
1/4 ts red pepper chili flakes
2 C homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
3-4 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade, optional
8 1" slices from a sourdough baguette, or 2 or 4 slices from a large loaf- whatever fits in your ovenproof crock
1.5 C freshly shredded good quality cheddar cheese, best be from Wisconsin or Vermont

Fire up the oven to 400F.  Place the garlic cloves in a little foil packet and drizzle with a bit of EVOO and close.  Onto a sheet pan, lined with parchment if you like easy clean-up, place the tomatoes cut-side up.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and then drizzle some EVOO over.  Add the garlic packet to the sheet pan and roast for 60 minutes, your kitchen and most of the house will be smelling all delicious.

Let the garlic cool slightly before squeezing out the cloves.  Add them to a food processor or blender along with the tomatoes and any accumulated juices from the sheet pan.  Pulse until you have a chunky puree, you don't want large chunks and you don't want a thin liquid.  Pour into a medium pot and add the thyme, red pepper flakes, and stock.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce to a simmer, cook for about 20 minutes.  Season to taste with S&P. 

Considering the size of your ovenproof crocks or coffee mugs or bowls, cut sourdough bread slices accordingly.  I had a small baguette so 4 slices fit on top of each soup.  Pour the soup into your holder of choice, then top with the bread and then heap on the cheese.  Place the crocks/mugs/bowls onto a sheet pan, lined with aluminum foil if you like easy clean-up, and bake at 400F for about 20 minutes, until the cheese is all bubbly and browny at the edges.

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