I’ve been on a comfort food kick lately. Probably because the world is falling apart and a happy tummy means a happy day. At the very top of my list of comfort food is chicken parmigiana, nothing will ever take that amazing combination of chicken and sauce and cheese down from it’s gastronomic throne. However, in the court of culinary delights, there is a prince (or princess) named tomato soup and grilled cheese. This uber comforting dish might not be the king of the hill, but it certainly hits the spot on those days when gooey cheesy-ness and rich savory are a necessity.
Now, I know that iconic can of soup is delicious, I know it takes about 45 seconds to heat up, and I know it’s going to taste the same every single time…but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better. This tomato soup comes together in 15 minutes and is really a huge improvement on the canned version. There’s a little more depth, a little more texture, a little more richness, and a little more love, and a lot of ‘littles’ makes a big difference.
Setting Up The Base
You know YumSizzle and how I like to get down and dirty with the recipes and this one is no different. The first thing is setting up the base layer of onion and garlic. We start with cooking these classic flavors in a combination of butter and olive oil. I like this combination, some recipes use only butter, or only olive oil, but I’ve found the combination to create a more complex richness than just one or the other. I really really recommend using a premium butter like Kerrygold, the european butter tends to have a higher amount of butterfat, making it richer and creamier, both of those are characteristics we definitely want in tomato soup.
You’ll find that a lot of tomato soup recipes forgo the garlic. I use two cloves of garlic, not enough to give the soup a garlic taste, but enough to cut through the final richness of the soup giving the final flavor a little more ‘oohh’ value. I also like the combination of oregano and pepper flakes in this recipe, but you could always sub in sage or basil if you want to experiment.
I use flour to thicken up the soup. Texture is a huuuuge factor in soup, some soups need to be goopy, the hot and sour soup from Chinese takeout or clam chowder, but a goopy tomato soup is supremely unappetizing. To thicken this soup I use a tablespoon of flour (a little more if you like your soup thicker). When using flour as a thickener it’s important to add it and cook it before adding liquids. If we try to add in the flour after our liquid it will get clumpy and it won’t mix in to the soup (there’s science here, mostly involving starch molecules and swelling and binding to each other). So, to stop clumping, and to cook out the raw flour flavor I add in the flour to the onions, garlic, and fat (starch won’t swell when added to fat, also the reason we make roux to thicken gumbos and sauces). There’s a flavor bonus at this step too, the flour will brown, and brown = flavor, and flavor = YumSizzle, and we love YumSizzle!
Now we’re ready for the tomatoes, but the question is what kind of tomatoes??? You could use whatever you want, as long as they’re whole peeled in the can.
The better quality the tomato, the better your soup. I like to use the not quite san marzano tomatoes, whole and peeled. Why whole and peeled? The majority of tomatoes we get in our supermarkets are picked green and forced to ripen (or redden) during the transportation process using chemicals. Canned tomatoes on the other hand are tomatoes that have been given time to ripen on the vine, reducing the amount of acidity and increasing the amount of sugar.
We definitely want less acidity and more sugar (that iconic white and red can brand uses high fructose corn syrup…blech!) so canned tomatoes are a must. The tomatoes I like to use are canned with a little salt and some basil, this just adds more flavor to the soup, you’ll be fine with any whole peeled tomato, but seriously, the better the can, the better the soup. If you want really good soup splurge the extra $2 for the good tomatoes.
Finish It Up
And that’s about it. Cook up the tomatoes for a couple of minutes, mix in some milk (or cream if you’re feeling frisky) for some extra deliciousness, then blend it up and pop in a little fresh pepper and salt to taste (more or less depending on the tomatoes you used).
Now that the soup is done, it’s so easy and so quick. It’s time to make grilled cheese! There are about nine million ways to make grilled cheese, so choose your favorite way and get it done!
The Grilled Cheese
The grilled cheese coppers might come after me here. It’s melted cheese and toast, let’s not turn it into a science fair competition. If you own a grilled cheese business then yes, your grilled cheese should be a carefully crafted piece of culinary art. But, if you’re at home on a gloomy day and just want something crunchy go for it however you want. Toaster oven works, use mayo, slather butter on everything, go dry into the pan, who gives a $%&#, it’s your life…YOLO.
Melt some butter in a non-stick pan. Take cheese (american + dealers choice) and put it on a slice of bread. Take that slice of bread with the cheese and put it in the pan with the hot, melted butter. Cover it, and cook it low and slow for 3-4 minutes until the cheese starts to melt around the edges and the bottom of the bread is nice and toasty. Put the other slice of bread on there, flip over the grilled cheese so the untoasted piece of bread is facing down. Cover, and let cook low and slow for another 3-4 minutes until the second slice of bread is toasted. Done. Easy. Do it however you like… I prefer to not use too much butter.
There you have it. This was one of the more satisfying recipes to publish. Spend 15 minutes, make some soup, toss down a grilled cheese, and snuggle up with some Netflix. YumSizzle and chill.