I don’t know too many people who don’t have fond memories of childhood meals consisting of grilled cheese & tomato soup or something similar. The two just seem to be the ideal combination; like mashed potatoes and gravy or Sonny & Cher (okay, maybe NOT the best example). But as we get older, it sometimes takes more than the canned variety to stir those old feelings. Luckily there are great chefs who are always changing things up and trying something new. I try to take advantage of this whenever possible. (Translation: I love going out to dinner).One of my favorite restaurants offers a ‘Fire roasted tomato bisque’. My daughter always encouraged me to try it, but I resisted, mostly because I had to look up exactly what I would be eating. As it turns out, it originated in France as a creamy, highly seasoned soup, its base being the strained broth of crustaceans (shrimp, crab, lobster, etc). Over time, soups made with roasted or pureed vegetables were also referred to as a bisque. Who knew, right?
So the next time we had lunch there, I gave it a try. Presented to you in an simple bowl, this beautiful soup comes with a thin swirl of sour cream pointing to the lightest puff pastry, delicately placed in the middle. It was gorgeous. I didn’t know whether to take a picture or eat it. I did both. At first taste, it was instant addiction. I was hooked. Really. I would sneak away from my family in the afternoon and get a take-out order. Now, the problem with this (other than the fact that I was sneaking off to buy soup) is that my husband is a bit cheap (he calls it “frugal”). I knew at $5.00/pint, I wasn’t going to be able to do it very often, so I attempted to duplicate this at home.
I scoured the Internet, thumbed through cookbooks and tried various recipes for roasted tomato bisque. None of them hit the mark. Finally, I took a base recipe, threw in my own ingredients, tinkered with it a bit and the results made me happy and my husband even happier. The money I’d spent at the restaurant for a pint, made over 2 quarts at home. Maybe I didn’t have the fancy puff pastry on top, but it’s heaven, just the same. It’s inexpensive, it’s simple and can be prepared in under an hour.
So in the end, I think the moral of the story is that when it comes to comfort food, sometimes you can go home again. Enjoy!
10 Roma tomatoes, crushed (blanched w/skins removed)
(or) 3-14 oz cans fire roasted or crushed tomatoes
½ c. butter plus 1 oz. olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 white onion, minced
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Fresh basil leaves,to taste, rolled and sliced into ribbons (chiffonade)(I used 5, reserving half for a garnish)
Liquid smoke, hickory 1 TBSP or to taste (If using fire roasted tomatoes, leave this out)
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Over medium high heat, in heavy pot, combine butter & olive oil. Cook onions until translucent, reduce heat to medium, add garlic and cook just until fragrant. (About 5 minutes).
Add tomatoes, including juice, cover and cook on medium for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid, add chicken broth & heavy cream (slowly) and simmer. It should reduce and thicken slightly.
Add fresh basil, salt & pepper. Cook, uncovered for 10 minutes more on low to medium heat.
Remove from heat and using either an immersion blender or blender/food processor (in batches) blend/pulse until mostly smooth. Leave a few pieces of tomato if you like a little more texture to it. Return to heat (if cooled), serve with remaining basil as a garnish.