I have come to realize something about myself, and it is this: my favorite part of soup is bread.
Take this tomato soup, for instance. Usually I just have a bowl of it with a grilled cheese sandwich like any red-blooded American who grew up on Campbell’s and Kraft, but the other day I decided that it would be infinitely better if I were to skew the sandwich-to-soup ratio a bit and do it French onion style. I filled a ramekin half-full with tomato soup, added some toasted baguette slices, sprinkled on some cheese, and broiled the sucker.
Parts of the bread get saturated with the soup and parts of it stay crispy, while the cheese melts and oozes into the crevices. There’s enough topping to get a bite of cheese bread with each spoonful of bright red soup, which is just how it should be.
Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese, Two Ways
Makes about 6 servings.
1/4 cup butter
1 large or 2 small shallots, minced
5-8 thyme sprigs, tied together
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 ounces tomato paste
16 ounces canned chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons cognac
2 tablespoons sugar
4 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream (approximately)
baguette slices or slices of hearty bread
Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and thyme, cook for about 3 minutes, then ad the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes or so until the shallots are translucent and the thyme is fragrant.
Add the tomato paste, stir to incorporate with the other ingredients, and turn the heat up to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until you start to see that the tomato paste is caramelizing in places. Add the chopped tomatoes, cognac, sugar, and water and stir.
Simmer the soup for about 45 minutes with the lid off. Remove the bundle of thyme stems. If you’d like a smooth soup, blend with an immersion blender. If you like things more chunky, leave the soup as-is. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a swirl of heavy cream and some chopped parsley sprinkled on top.
You can serve this soup with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side, or French onion soup style, which is my preferred method.
For a grilled cheese, melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat. Place a slice of bread in the skillet, put some cheddar on the bread, and top with another slice of bread. Once the bottom of the sandwich is lovely and golden-brown, carefully flip the sandwich to brown the other side. Slice in half and serve hot with your tomato soup.
For French onion soup style, ladle some soup into a ramekin or other oven-proof container. Toast a few slices of baguette and lay those on top of the soup. Sprinkle a good amount of cheddar cheese on top of the toast, then broil until the cheese is melted and starting to turn slightly brown at the edges. Serve while the cheese is still hot and melty.