When I was a kid, I was a really picky eater, and there was virtually nothing I hated more than a bowl of tomato soup. The sound of a hand-cranked can opener inching around the rim of a Campbell’s can was my version of nails on a chalkboard. And although I shed most of my weird food proclivities as I aged, I never got fully on board with tomato soup—until about a year ago.
Since I started working at Nordstrom here in Seattle, I often run across the street to grab lunch at the cafe in the store. It’s there that I developed a fondness (which may be more aptly described as a near-constant craving) for that most nightmarish of childhood meals: tomato soup. The key is lots of smokey, roasted flavor, a pureed texture and plenty of cream for a bisque-like result that’s about as far away from Campbell’s as you can get.
Not one to leave things well enough alone, I opted to gild the lily with some sourdough croutons in the form of crab-stuffed grilled cheese bites. A mixture of gruyere, cheddar and Monterey jack melts beautifully and adds wonderful creaminess without obscuring the flavor of the crab. A dash of Old Bay feels just right. And I’m hard-pressed to think of a meal more comforting than this.
Fire-Roasted Tomato Bisque
adapted from Food & Wine
• 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
• 1 medium onion, finely chopped
• 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
• 1 celery rib, finely chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 3 Tbsp flour
• 4 cups chicken stock
• two 14 1/2 oz cans diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
• 3 Tbsp tomato paste
• 2 tsp sugar
• 1/4 cup heavy cream
• salt and ground white pepper
1. In a medium saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic, cover and cook over medium-high heat, stirring ocationally, until the vegetables are just beginning to brown—about five minutes.
2. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir over low heat for 1 minute, or until the flour is fully incorporated.
3. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook the soup over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
4. Transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth.
5. Return the puree to the saucepan, add the heavy cream and cook until the soup is just heated through.
6. Season the soup with salt and white pepper and swirl in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
• 1/3 lb fresh lump crab meat
• 1 tsp fresh parsley, stemmed and chopped
• 1 tsp dijon mustard
• 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
• Worcestershire sauce
• sourdough bread
• gruyere cheese, grated
• Monterrey jack cheese, grated
1. Add the crab to a small bowl. Season with parsley, mustard and Old Bay. Add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a squeeze of lemon. Stir, being careful not to break up the crab too much.
2. Generously butter one side of two slices of bread. Add a scoop of crab mixture, gruyere and Monterrey jack cheese, then gently press the sandwich together, butter side out.
3. Heat a small pan to medium, then add the sandwich and cook until both sides are golden brown and the cheese has fully melted.
4. Let cool and use a sharp knife to trim into 1″ square croutons.