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Best Tomato Soup

I really like tomato soup. I would even go so far as to say it is my favorite soup and this tomato soup is one of the best I have ever eaten. Better than the tomato soup at Bread [1], better than the tomato soup at Nordstrom Cafe (which is surprisingly good for a department store restaurant), better than any I know. It is relatively easy to make and comes together quickly. I make this pretty regularly during the winter and never get tired of it. Let it offer you some comfort on a cold snowy day (it is 4° F in Chicago right now). It is particularly nice with some Parmesan toasts to dunk into it. Or maybe some mozzarella melted on top. Some fresh chives? Feel free to improvise.

The real trick here is that you roast your canned tomatoes with brown sugar before adding them to the stock. This delivers a deep, rich caramel goodness to the canned tomatoes. Again, San Marziano [2]tomatoes are the way to go here.

Creamy Tomato Soup (Adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Heat oven to 450° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. With fingers, carefully open whole tomatoes over a strainer set in a bowl and push out seeds, allowing juices to fall through the strainer into bowl. Spread tomatoes in single layer on foil. Sprinkle evenly with dark brown sugar. Bake for 30 minutes or until all liquid has evaporated and tomatoes begin to color. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, then peel them off foil; transfer to small bowl and set aside.

Heat butter over medium heat in a large saucepan until foaming. Add shallots, tomato paste and allspice. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened, 7 to 10 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Gradually add chicken stock, whisking constantly to combine; stir in reserved tomato juice and roasted tomatoes. Cover, increase heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, about 10 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and puree soup using an immersion blender. Alternately, you could strain soup to separate solids and liquids and then puree the solids with a cup of the strained liquid until smooth and return everything to pot. In either method, once you have a smoothly pureed soup you should warm it over a low flame and add the cream, salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Serve with croutons, cheese, fresh basil or chives, whatever seems good to you. This is also be quite amazing with a grilled cheese [3].

***For the parmesan toasts I brush some oil on slices of baguette, sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and top with some grated parmesan. Toast until edges are lightly browned and cheese is melted.

*** This makes about 6 servings of soup.