Thursday, December 11, 2008

We conclude our discussion
of cards and make soup

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The blogger community is a powerful thing. Many thanks to all who replied to my queries about Christmas cards. Your combined wisdom astounds me. And makes me realize how incredibly impressionable I am. I read one comment: Oh, yes. That's right! I'll do that. I read another: Well, that's a very good point too! Ok, I'll do that! And so on.

I like the idea of sending something after the Christmas holiday: sort of a New Years or Valentine card. I truly like the idea of making cards, but I am impressed by the digital slide shows and cards some people shared. And Katie's right: I could include more people. And at this point, everyone in my realm is pretty hip with the digital. My 70-something aunt just notified family members that her husband entered the hospital on Facebook (very practical—no time to call everyone). But to do something nice my technical skills would have to be kicked up a notch or two. We'll see.

In the meantime, returning to an area where I feel somewhat competent, I'm getting ready for a party I have hosted for the past few years: Sophie's carousel party. The Usual Suspects, five families with an unusual affinity for each other, gather at our house for cocktails at 4:00. When
it gets dark, the kids are carted off ride the carousel, sporting all its holiday fanciness, in Tilden Park, near our house. Everyone returns for a simple dinner and a book exchange for the kids. (See that tree? It's real.)

I'm still working on my appetizer menu, but for dinner I'll be serving cream of tomato soup, spanakopita, and a green salad. Dessert will be a cranberry tart with pear Riesling granita, which I will garnish with a sprig of candied rosemary.

Last night I made the candied rosemary, which is now packed away in an airtight container. I'm all about planning and prep, so I also got a jump on the tomato soup.

I started the recipe last night by roasting my tomatoes. Canned tomatoes are drained (reserving the juice) and then sliced open, seeds removed, spread on a foil-lined baking sheet, sprinkled with brown sugar, and baked until most of the liquid has evaporated.

The roast tomatoes and juice went into the refrigerator until I arrived home this evening from my very dull work holiday party (I kept thinking "I could be home finishing my soup!").

This evening I had only to saute the shallots, etc., add stock, and simmer everything for a while before zipping it through a blender. I don't mind using a stick blender for soups like cream of broccoli where you don't mind chunks, but I like this soup to be silky smooth and find a regular blender works best.

I complete the soup up to adding the half and half and sherry and store it in the refrigerator until a few hours before serving, when I'll add the remaining ingredients as I heat it up.

This recipe ran in the November/December 1999 issue of Cook's Illustrated. I've modified (and simplified) slightly. Everyone who has tasted it says this is the best tomato soup they have had. It freezes well, so make lots!


2 cans (28 oz. each) whole tomatoes, drained, juice reserved
1 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large shallots, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
pinch of ground allspice
2 tablespoons flour
1 3/4 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
1/2 cup half and half
2 tablespoons brandy or dry sherry
salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spread tomatoes and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until all liquid has evaporated and tomatoes begin to color, about 30 minutes. Allow tomatoes to cool slightly and peel them off foil. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium heat until foaming. Add shallots, tomato paste, and allspice. Reduce heat to low and cook while stirring until shallots are softened, about 10 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, until thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds. Whisk in chicken stock and add reserved tomato juice and roasted tomatoes. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes.

Remove mixture from stove and allow to cool slightly. Ladle into blender in batches, placing pureed portions in another saucepan. Add cream and reheat until warm. Off heat, stir in brandy or sherry and season to taste.


Purple Flowers said...

Your recipe sounds so delicious, I felt as if I could taste it as I was reading. Hubby and I love tomato soup, so I will make it. Thanks for sharing!

Belle in Bloom said...

The soup sounds wonderful! (So does the entire menu!) wow. You never cease to amaze me, Cindy. I love that Sophie has a party. It sounds like so much fun. Have a great time!

Have a great day!

Auntie Pockets said...

This soup sounds AMAZING!!!! And the candied rosemary..FABULOUS!

KK said...

The party sounds like such fun! And candied rosemary? Where did you come from?????!!! (I mean that in a good way.)

Deb said...

I'm totally making that soup...hey, by the way, if you want to see what I made recently (and I think you do), come visit Debland. Hint: I took you up on your dare.

adozeneggs said...

That just sounds like such a nice evening. No matter what my career change, I always pick things that are insanely busy during the Holidays, preventing me from such lovely, festive occasions.
Can't wait to see what you think of the cranberry tart. I loved it.
I make the candied rosemary as a garnish for my Buche de Noel, I love the idea to use it in a cocktail!
Have a wonderful time!!

Bonbon Oiseau said...

wow--this soup sounds fantastic-i will be trying thos for sure--how do you do the candied rosemary??