One of the great comfort foods of a generation (at least) was Campbell’s (r) tomato soup. There are two sad things about this. First, it’s easy to make tomato soup. Second, since homemade tomato soup doesn’t taste the same, it’s hard to break the mental image that it’s inferior.
Now the tomato soup is one of those surprisingly easy soups – well, at least in theory. It’s a bisque. Bisques are huge fun, because everything — EVERYTHING — gets run into the blender. Remember the cilantro soup? It’s a bisque. So since bisques are easy and I can’t make a soup that tastes like one in the can (actually I can, but it gets scary), let’s play a bit.
Let’s start by bringing a bunch of flavor. The Holy Trinity – one stalk of celery, one carrot, one small onion, all minced. Put them in an ovenproof pan (cast iron skillet, cookie sheet, cake pan, pie pan – doesn’t matter). Open up a couple of large cans of tomatoes…
Wait. You think I’m going to use fresh for this? Uh-huh. OK, if it’s that time of the year, sure. I get decent turnout from my garden. But I also tend to eat them as fast as I harvest my tomatoes – I LIKE tomatoes. Having any left for sun-drying or soup is highly unlikely. So, the cans. As it happens, I also prefer the taste of well-canned tomatoes in soup. And the fact I’m losing that “fresh” taste doesn’t matter. See, the fresh goes away in canning because you have to par-cook the tomatoes. Since we’re cooking them, well, the fresh goes away in our dish too.
So, crush and drain the tomatoes, but reserve the juice. The tomatoes go into the pan with the trinity. Now tuck them all under a broiler for five minutes. Pull the pan out out, stir, and back under the broiler. Repeat this till you like the caramelization – some like more, some less, so this is totally to your taste. Me, I tend to wind up with about 15 minutes under the broiler.
All these veggies go into a blender along with one cup of the tomato juice and a clove of garlic. Add a tablespoon of honey at this point as well, and start blending till it’s smooth. It’s a bit thick but that’s ok. We’re going to increase the flavor mix while we thin it by adding vegetable stock. Add a cup and blend again. With that it’s time to turn to the stove-top.
Start by making a medium-dark roux – not brick, but a bit of browning – out of two tablespoons of butter and a tablespoon of flour. Add a cup of milk and stir till it begins to thicken. Now add the tomato soup from the blender. Heat
Pour it all into a pan and add reserved tomato juice till it’s the thickness you want. Simmer for 15 minutes. Finish with half a cup of milk, a tablespoon of butter, and salt and pepper to taste.
Now it may be this is too thick for your taste. If so, you can use more of the tomato juice OR of the vegetable broth – your choice – to thin it in the pot.
It will not taste like soup from the can. Still I think you might like it.