Originally posted March 2012.
All last week I was craving the simplest of meals: cream of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Somehow, this staple meal has absolutely no place in my memory. Well, my dad used to make me grilled cheese all the time, but for some reason, at the age of six, after battling random bouts of croup, bronchitis and a chronic cough rivaling that of pack-a-day Marlboro smokers, I tested positive for a tomato allergy.
THIS IS LIKE KRYPTONITE, APPARENTLY.
Which is weird, because I had been scarfing down pizza and meat sauces and all sorts of tomato-laden dishes, and never even came close to hitting anaphylaxis. But whatever. I just had to be the difficult kid at slumber parties who could only have white pizza. I later graduated to being the difficult kid at slumber parties who had to sleep on the couch because of her backbrace. Kidding. I didn’t GO to slumber parties when I wore a backbrace!
God, this is getting depressing.
Anyway, it’s been 12 years since I donned that supremely ugly plastic torture device-cumbersome corset, and even longer since I decided I really wasn’t allergic to tomatoes, thankyouverymuch, and I’ve developed quite the affinity for a good bowl of cream of tomato soup.
I tried making cream of tomato soup once, probably a year or two ago, and ended up using a lackluster recipe that seemed to taste more saucy than soupy. I really wanted to find the perfect recipe. I thought about reaching out to my friends through Facebook, and seeing what results I got.
And then I thoughts…didn’t America’s Test Kitchen already handle the hard part?
So, laziness got the better of me, and I got my hands on their cream of tomato soup recipe…and holy moly, people, I fell nose over tail in love. I’m not sure if it was the roasting of the canned tomatoes, or the pinch of allspice, or the teaspoon or so of brandy, but my one regret with this soup is that I did not make a gallon of it. Still slightly scarred from my previous failed attempt at cream of tomato soup, I thought, “Meh, I’ll just halve the recipe, so I don’t end up flushing enough soup to feed a family if it turns out to be just bleh.” (Yeah, I make noises instead of using words sometimes. It’s what happens when you start to grow up and work too much, kids.)
I paired my soup with a smoked gouda grilled cheese & bacon sandwich, because after making this pasta salad for some friends back in the fall, I’m also in love with smoked gouda. I’m polyamorous when it comes to food. I can’t help it. And it was seriously the ugliest grilled cheese sandwich ever, but still pretty good.
The recipe is a little fussy, but seriously, stick to it. It’s so worth it in the end. The only change I made was halving the recipe, so if you want to have a freakin’ bounty of delicious soup, just double what I’ve got here.
Cream of tomato soup (courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)
1 can whole tomatoes in liquid
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 large shallots, minced
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp unsalted butter
pinch allspice (see side note!)
1 tbsp flour
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tsp dry sherry (or brandy, if you’ve got that instead)
salt and cayenne pepper, to taste
Preheat your oven to 450F, position your oven rack in the middle of the oven and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Remove tomatoes from your can, reserving the liquid. Cut your tomatoes and half and, over a strainer (that is over a bowl…) push out the seeds, letting the seeds fall into the strainer and letting any rogue juices collect in the bowl.
Spread your seedless (I’m impatient, clearly) tomatoes out across your lined baking sheet and sprinkle them with brown sugar. Bake for about 20-30 minutes, then peel them off the foil and set them aside.
While the tomatoes are roasting (or baking, whatever), heat butter in a large saucepan/soup pot until melting. Add your shallots, tomato paste and allspice and saute until the shallots begin to soften and turn golden (5-10 minutes). Add flour and blend, then pour in your chicken stock. Keep stirring. Add your reserved tomato juices (from the can AND your stealthy bowl under the strainer) and the roasted tomatoes, and increase the heat, bringing your mixture to a boil. Cover and lower the heat, allowing the soup to simmer for another 10 minutes.
So, remember that strainer from earlier? Rinse it off, because you need it again. Pour your mixture through the strainer and into a bowl large enough to contain all your liquids. Add your solids and about half a cup of the liquids into a food processor or blender, pureeing until smooth. Add your pureed tomato goodness and the remaining liquids BACK into your saucepan/soup pot and, over low heat, add your cream. Once the soup is warm enough for your liking, remove the pan from heat and add your sherry and, if you think you need it, salt and cayenne pepper. Serve with grilled cheese, and hide the leftovers from whoever you share your living quarters with, because he/she/it will probably eat them all and it will make you pretty sad.
One thing I really try to avoid doing is buying a product I know I might only use once. Or, sparingly. Especially spices, which, for some reason, tend to be exorbitantly expensive for such a little tiny canister. I’ve started going to the Goya/Spanish foods aisles for things like garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, etc., because I do cook with those quite often, and you get more bang for your buck if you buy a big canister of Badia garlic powder.
Anyway, I’m getting into this now, of all times, because this recipe called for allspice. Now, I rarely use allspice. I don’t have it in my cabinet because since moving out of my parents’ house nearly three years ago, I’ve never used a recipe that called for it. Now, if a recipe seems tremendously fussy, I usually just say “forget it.” And this recipe, while it had quite a few steps, didn’t seem to have a fussy list of ingredients. The only thing I was missing was allspice. I was going to just omit it entirely, since it only calls for a pinch. A pinch? Seriously? I’m going to spend five bucks on a tiny little plastic canister that will sit in my cabinet for years, virtually untouched, for a pinch? THESE IS HARD TIMES, MCCORMICK.
So I decided to check out just what spices are in allspice, and… you ready for it?
Cloves. Cinnamon. Nutmeg.
Uh. I have those. All of those. A lot of those.
So, seriously, people. If you have the staples stocked, you can probably make your own mixes instead of splurging at ShopRite.
Make your own…allspice
Equal parts ground cloves, ground nutmeg & cinnamon.
Make your own…cajun seasoning
3/4 cup salt
1/4 cup ground cayenne pepper
2 tbsp ground white pepper, ground black pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder
Make your own…jerk seasoning
2 tbsp dried minced onion, OR 2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dried thyme, ground allspice, ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt