Hello from snowy NYC!
I am officially snowed in! For the last 36 hours, the city was walloped by over 17 inches of snow! And it’s still snowing!
Honestly, for someone who lives to be cozy and snuggled up on the couch watching a movie, I was all for this unexpected halt in time and busyness.
So this was the perfect opportunity to cook some comfort food! And when you think comfort food, there’s nothing more like a hug in a bowl, than tomato soup, and an ooey, gooey grilled cheesy on crusty bread.
I mean, I dare you to try to think of something more comfort food than that!
But this soup is not just any canned, Campbell’s tomato soup from concentrate. No ma’am.
It has a secret ingredient…bacon!
Yes, leave it to bacon to provide that perfect sophisticated smokey note.
This recipe is not gluten free, or vegan, or anything other than just straight up comfort food.
A couple quick notes:
As tomatoes are the star of the show here in this recipe, ingredients matter. SO – splurge a little and get San Marzano WHOLE tomatoes. They come in a can. San Marzano is a type of tomato only grown in Italy, that is known for their tender texture, rich flavor and mild acidity. And don’t be tempted to get the diced or crushed tomatoes. No, no. Get the whole tomatoes. You see, when canning tomatoes, the diced or crushed variety will contain the “leftover” pieces from less desirable tomatoes. Go for the whole tomatoes, and then with clean hands, get in there and crush them yourself. I promise, this makes a difference.
Next, a note on the grilled cheese. Again, as there are so few ingredients, the quality matters. I went to a bakery and got their homemade sourdough loaf, and it has the perfect crusty/crunchy crust and airy, chewy center.
And for the cheese, I got a hunk of cheese from the specialty cheese section of Whole Foods. They will often have a “manager’s special” or a “scraps” section where they sell tiny chunks of expensive cheese for a discounted price – either because it’s a small amount, or because it’s nearing the “sell by” date. Either way, this is a great place to get your hands on some high quality cheese without paying a high amount of cheddar. 😉 … (see what I did there? hehe)
And grate it yourself! Though tempting, the preshredded cheeses don’t melt as well, because they are coated with an anti-caking agent. This prevents it from getting beautifully stringy and melty. Always grate your own! Not only is it more cost effective, but it just has such a better texture and melt factor!
OK ONTO THE RECIPE!
Here’s What You Need (Serves 4 with leftovers)
4 slices of bacon, cut into small pieces
2 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste (If you can, use the San Marzano variety!)
1 Tbsp flour
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 large (28 oz) can of whole San Marzano tomatoes
Heavy cream – optional, to drizzle overtop at the end
Sea salt – I used 1 1/2 tsp
Freshly cracked black pepper
Good quality, crusty sandwich bread
Your favorite cheese — grated off the block! (About 3 oz per sandwich) – I used truffle gruyere, other fabulous options are: sharp cheddar, gouda, brie, or provolone. Just please don’t use Kraft Singles!
For the Soup:
In a large, soup pot, fry the bacon pieces over medium heat for about 5-6 minutes, until the bacon begins to get brown and crispy. Stir in the carrots, onion and garlic, and saute for 7-10 minutes, until the veggies are tender. Add the tomato paste and stir for 2-3 minutes until it begins to brown and caramelize. Then, stir in the flour, and stir for about one minute.
In a separate, large bowl, pour the canned whole tomatoes and their juice, and with your hands, crush them.
Add the crushed tomatoes, broth, thyme and bay leaf into the soup pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Puree in batches in a food processor or blender, or use an immersion blender, and blend until smooth. Return to the pot. Add 1 1/2 tsp salt, several cracks of black pepper, and cream if desired. Serve warm with a drizzle of cream, and a grilled cheese sandwich. Store the leftovers in an airtight tupperware in the fridge for 5-6 days.
For the Grilled Cheese
Slice your bread into 1 inch slices. (Texas toast style!)
Grate your cheese of choice, and set aside.
Heat a nonstick frying pan or a stainless steel pan on the stove over medium-high heat.
Butter one side of each slice of bread.
Place 1 Tbsp butter into the pan, and let it melt. Place one slice of bread, butter-side-down on the pan. Carefully mound the shredded cheese on the bread. Then, place the other slice of bread, butter-side-up on top of the cheese. (The buttered sides of the bread should be on the outside).
Cook for about 3 minutes per side, until it is golden brown and beautifully toasted. Cut in half, and serve hot with a bowl of tomato soup!
OK WOW!!!! This dinner was a 10/10!
I made this for my special gentleman, and he literally had two sandwiches and two bowls of soup! It was THAT good!
Smokey, slightly sweet, and perfectly tomatoey! I’m serious – the San Marzano tomatoes make a difference! The texture was velvety and smooth, and the hint of bacon really shines through!
But the sandwich really brings it over the top! Crusty, gooey cheese, perfectly buttery and rich. And I’m telling you – the “shredded-by-hand” method is what makes the sandwich superb. Because when you use pre-shredded or sliced cheese, the outside will toast before the cheese is able to melt. So you’ll either have burned toast and melted cheese, or a golden brown toast with unmelted cheese. By shredding it yourself, they cook at the same time, making the ultimate grilled cheese!
Whatever you do, make this meal! Whether you’re snowed in, or just want to have some comfort food, this will hit the spot!
OH! And the best part…is that the leftovers are amazing! Just reheat on the stove, or in the microwave, and add another drizzle of cream! My man brought it to work with him all week! 🙂
So there you go! If you’re caught in the snowstorm too, stay safe and warm! And perhaps have a bowl of this amazing goodness!
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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