That darn ubiquitous, iconic can of tomato soup. My guess would be that Campbell’s outsells it only by Cream of Mushroom, the mortar that binds American casseroles. Let’s not dwell on that right now, we’ll save that particular rant for later. Instead, consider the comfort food of a rich, fragrant, tomato-forward bisque.
The tomatoes are broiled to intensify their flavor; the juice reserved for tomato tartness. A nip of brandy makes this elegant but you can still crumble Saltines into it. Or perhaps consider a Swiss and Gruyere grilled cheese sandwich for dunking.
2-28 ounce cans Whole Tomatoes
1 medium Onion, minced
1 Tablespoon Sugar
4 Tablespoons Butter
3-4 Tablespoons Flour
2 cups of Chicken or Vegetable Broth
2 Tablespoons Brandy or Cognac
¾ cup Heavy Cream
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Turn the broiler on.
Open the cans of tomatoes and extract them one by one with a fork gently squeezing them to release juices and seeds. Flatten the tomatoes to expose as much surface as possible as you place them on an oiled baking sheet with a lip. Reserve the liquid. You should have about 28 ounces of liquid. Sprinkle the tomatoes with the sugar and a little salt. Place under the broiler keeping an eye on them as the sugar will caramelize and begin to blacken. When they become fragrant and show some dark spots, turn broiler off, move sheet to a lower rack and leave the oven door open. This dries the tomatoes out a little more without darkening them.
Melt butter over medium heat in a 6-8 quart saucepan. Add onion and sauté’ slowly until it just begins to turn golden. Remove pan from the heat and whisk in flour so it absorbs the butter. Return to heat and whisk in broth. Puree this with an immersion blender, in very small batches in a regular blender, or all at once with a Vita Mix. Return the now smooth ingredients to the saucepan; add reserved tomato liquids and brandy or Cognac. Add salt and pepper and allow to simmer on low about ten minutes. (The recipe can be arrested at this point and finished just before serving.) Add cream being careful not to allow the bisque to scorch or boil. Adjust salt, pepper and brandy before serving.
For a Swiss and Gruyere Toasted Cheese
Thinly slice the cheeses. Spread two slices of preferred bread, I like Pepperidge Farm Extra Thin White (I know, I know) with grainy mustard or Dijon. Melt a Tablespoon of butter in a frying pan on medium heat. Place one slice of bread in butter, mustard side up, arrange cheeses and top with the other slice. Gently flip this as it turns light brown. Turn off the heat, serve up the soup, slice sandwich corner to corner and serve.