You say Toe-May-Toe, I say Toe-Ma-Toe … A Tomato Soup Variation.
At this time of the year there is always a soup or stew, ready on our stovetop, to enjoy with lunch or dinner as a foil to the winter’s chill. It seems to me that one of the quickest and simplest soups to make is a tomato soup because it requires very few ingredients and for the most part can be prepared entirely from items that are on hand in your refrigerator and pantry.
One interesting observation I have made is how many variations of tomato soup there actually are. Besides all the commercial food packagers who try and entice us to purchase one of their canned soup offerings that line the grocery store shelves, many cookbook authors and recipe developers include variations of the soup either in print or on the Internet.
Some tout their recipe is the best tomato soup you will ever taste, while others claim theirs is the only recipe you’ll ever need! Some are creamy, while others are chunky. Some are spicy, while others are thickened with bread, such as the Italian variation Pappa al Pomodoro. It seems there is no right or wrong recipe as it all comes down to a matter of personal taste.
With that said, after much trial and error, with an extra pinch of this here and a little tweak there, the following is the tomato soup recipe I now prepare as the base from which to build a meal–either by garnishing the soup in a variety of different ways (for example, by floating in a couple of jumbo shrimp first sautéed in butter, garlic, and Aleppo chili flakes), or simply accompanying a steaming bowl with a grilled cheese sandwich. What I like about this recipe is that the end result becomes a velvety broth with a rich, light smoky depth of flavor.
A Tomato Soup Variation
Ingredients (serves 4)
Bacon or pancetta
1 large onion, diced
2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 generous tablespoon rice (used to thicken)
3 to 4 fresh thyme sprigs, tied together
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon pimenton
3 cups tomato puree with juice
3 cups vegetable stock or water
½ cup Half & Half
2 tablespoons butter
Salt & pepper to taste
In a large stockpot over medium high heat, warm 3 tablespoons olive oil in which to render and crisp 3 slices of bacon or diced pancetta. Set the rendered meat on a paper towel to drain, then finely dice and set aside.
Add the onion and whole garlic to the rendered fat and sauté until it begins to lightly color and soften.
To the sauté add back the diced bacon along with the rice, thyme, bay, pimento, salt and pepper, stirring to coat and combine.
Add the tomato and the stock, bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and allow the soup to thicken, occasionally stirring for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove the thyme bundle and the bay leaves, and use an immersion mixer to finely puree the soup to a smooth consistency. Ladle the soup into a fine mesh strainer and using the back of the ladle, press the soup through the strainer, removing any remaining solids to obtain a velvety smooth broth.
Return the strained soup to the pot over low heat and add the butter and Half & Half, whisking to thoroughly incorporate. Check and correct the seasoning as needed and serve the soup in warm bowls as is, or garnished as you like, or even accompanied by that grilled cheese sandwich.
Speaking of that, a large bowl of this tomato soup and a thick grilled cheese sandwich paired with an ice cold bottle of champagne will be how we plan to welcome in the New Year!
Happy holidays and good health in the coming New Year.
May you continue to Eat well and Be well.
The dishes of our childhood stay with us forever.