Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Spicy Tomatoe Bisque (and Grilled Cheese)

Grilled cheese and tomato soup - an American classic. It's an incredible combination for those cold winter afternoons up here in Ithaca. While people across America might go with Kraft singles and Campbell's to do this at home, it's quite easy to punch this up into a more interesting meal. On a recent weekend, I did just that! It's simple and easy and was well worth the minimal effort of freshly chopping some vegetables instead of reaching for that condensed soup can.

To start with, I was lucky to find some beautiful Campari tomatoes on sale at Wegman's (inspiration borne of a sale!). Campari tomatoes tend to be even sweeter and juicier than the smaller grape and cherry tomatoes.

Now, the ingredients for the whole recipe:

- 12 oz. tomatoes (the sweeter the better), cut into chunks (for smaller tomatoes, halved is fine)
- 4 tbsp butter
- 4 tbsp AP flour
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 4 ribs celery, peeled and chopped
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tsp chili powder/cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 small can tomato puree
- chicken broth (about half a box)
- cream (to taste)

Heat the butter in the bottom of a stockpot or dutch over. When it is hot, fry the garlic until fragrant. Add the mirepoix (carrrots/celery/onion), and cook until slightly softened, 4-6 minutes.

Next, add the flour and mix well. Allow to cook for another 5 minutes to get rid of raw flour taste. Incorporate the spices and thyme at this point, cooking them for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir together, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the dish. Now, add the tomato puree to de-glaze completely. At this point, you will have what looks like a thick tomatoe sauce.

Once the tomato puree comes to a boil, add enough stock to cover the vegetables (4-6 cups). Allow to come to a simmer, reduce heat, and cook covered for 30-40 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the entire soup until it reaches your desired consistency. I went for a completely smooth blend. If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use a regular blender and do it in batches. To finish add a few splashes of cream and stir before serving.

For the grilled cheese, I used a fresh-baked Italian loaf from the bakery cut thick and buttered on the outside along with a mixture of brie and asiago cheese. Brie is an excellent addition to grilled cheese sandwiches because of how well it melts, and asiago provides a bit more sharpness for flavor (I'm also a fan of aged cheddar and gorgonzola for grilled cheese). I  used my cast iron griddle and pressed to toast them until the cheese was melted.

Now, if you're like me, dipping the grilled cheese into the tomato soup is the ultimate reward, and I strongly encourage you to do so!


  1. Sid, I was looking for a bisque recipe. This sounds excellent, will try and report back :)