Yesterday was long day at the hospital as my hubby underwent the last of the procedures required for a clinical trial of a new cancer drug. Let's just say it was not a fun-filled day. We had to be at the hospital by 6 a.m. and finally arrived back home at 2 p.m. That's when the good part of the day occurred! On my doorstep were the two new (slightly used) cookbooks I had ordered from Amazon's used booksellers. Considering I had just placed the order Sunday and they were already here was amazing! But, anyway, it sure cheered up our day.
The two cookbooks I purchased were The Big Book of Soups & Stews by Maryana Vollstedt and The Best Recipe Soups & Stews by the editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine. I have a method to my madness. I love eating and making good soups and stews. My hubby also loves them...maybe even more than I. My goal is to become accomplished enough in cooking them that I can offer soup and stew cooking classes, basics through advanced, through the community ed and parks and rec programs around here. Good idea, don't ya think? Anyway, both of these books have most of the basics for soup making in them as well as a multitude of recipes. This was also my thinking in registering for a soup cooking class at Sur La Table. Look out soups, here I come.
So, after a rough day of medical yuck, and the weather was rainy and blustery to add to the ickiness, what could be more comforting than tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches? I mean, really, isn't that what your mom made you when you had had a rough day? Only it was soup out of a can, right? And cheese from either the box or unwrapped slices. Well! Not for my honey. He needed excellent grilled cheese and tomato soup.
So I started pawing my way through the two books, combined a bit from both and created, sort of, this yumminess. Now, be forwarned, this much more work than opening a can or, nowadays, a box. But it was so worth the work!
5-6 medium tomatoes
1 26 oz. canned whole tomatoes
1 1/2 TBS. brown sugar
4 TBS. butter
1/4-1/2 finely chopped onion
1 TBS. tomato paste
pinch ground cloves or allspice
2 TBS flour
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. sugar
2 TBS. brandy or dry sherry
Salt to taste
Remove the skin of the fresh tomatoes by immersing in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then into cold water for a minute or so. Skins should easily slip off. Then slice in half, and remove seeds and core. Place on a foil lined baking sheet. Drain canned tomatoes, saving the juice. Slice these tomatoes in half and remove seeds. Place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake in 450 degree oven for 40-45 minutes. When they are done, let them cool slightly and remove to a bowl.
Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions, tomato paste and cloves, and cook 8-10 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the flour stirring constantly to make a smooth paste. Let cook a few minutes to rid the paste of the flour taste. Slowly stir in the chicken broth, the juice from the tomatoes and the roasted tomatoes. Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
Pour the mixture through a strainer into a bowl. I just have a large round strainer with a fine mesh. I aspire to a chinois, but have to wait until my ship comes in.
Pour the tomatoes into a blender and puree until smooth. You may need to add some of the strained liquid to help this process out. I then mashed the puree through the stainer to increase the smooth texture. Pour back into the rinsed out saucepan and add the cream and sugar and heat through. Remove from heat and stir in the sherry and salt to taste. This can be saved for a couple of days in the fridge.
Notes: As I stated, this is a bit of work, but the rewards make it worth it. This is not the overly sweet soup that comes already made. It has a bit more of a tang which my hubby and I decided we liked. A bit more sugar could be added if you like yours sweeter. We also bumped up the traditional grilled cheese sandwiches a bit by making them with muenster and bacon on English muffin bread. After a tough day we were now thoroughly comforted. Enjoy!