It is a testament to how good this soup is that it can still be so outstandingly delicious in the winter when tomatoes are often sad shadows of their summery selves. Inspired by my mum’s classic summer meal of roasted tomatoes blended with homemade stock and basil, and guided by the flavours of Deb Perelman’s classic tomato soup, this soup dovetails 2 delicious recipes into a bastardized amalgam that blazes its own path of deliciousness. I also strongly feel that this soup could likely cure any ailment (within reason obviously – I’m not going to just wildly claim that this soup will rid you of that drug-resistant strain of TB or anything of the sort). It’s probably something about the slow-roasting of the tomatoes and the innate healing powers that I just assume homemade broth always possesses. Oh, also there’s a very generous splash of brandy that gets poured in at the end, so obviously that kills all of the germs. So…yeah…you better make a big batch of this otherwise you’re for sure going to get sick.
**Please note that this soup is very much not vegan, nor is it easy to adapt for vegans. The BA’s Best recipe would likely suit you better if you’re searching for a dairy- or meat-free alternative
From-Scratch Roasted Tomato Soup
Adapted and amalgamated from Leanne Quirk and Deb Perelman
12 large Roma (plum) tomatoes (or ~ 16 small), cut in half lengthwise
1 pint grape or large cherry tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
5 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
4 large shallots, minced
2 tbsp all-purpose flour (substitutable GF flour works just fine)
1 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp ground allspice
1 tbsp chopped basil leaves + more for serving
½ cup heavy (whipping) cream + more for serving
2 tbsp brandy
1 stewing chicken (or a couple lb’s worth of chicken backs and necks)
3 big celery stalks, snapped in half
½ large yellow onion, peeled
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
Good handful of whatever stock-appropriate herbs are currently cluttering up your crisper (thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon – avoid anything too pungent like basil, dill, or mint though)
Very generous pinch of kosher salt
½ tsp black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F (or 300 if you have the misfortune of owning an oven that basically doesn’t work under 300 degrees). While the oven heats, arrange the Roma and grape/cherry tomatoes in a single layer on a large, lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast the tomatoes in the oven for 2 ½ hours. About 1 ½ hours into the cooking time, sprinkle the tomatoes with brown sugar and continue roasting. If the grape tomatoes start shriveling up too much, or darken more than you’d like, scoop them off the tray sooner than prescribed. I like using various sizes of tomatoes because it gives you a good mix of caramelization levels.
While the tomatoes roast, start making the chicken stock. Place all of the ingredients in a large pot set over medium-high heat and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently for anywhere from 1 ½ - 3 hours, uncovered. Don’t reduce the stock too much though, you want at least a litre of it (4 cups) left for cooking with. Skim off any scum or foam that rises to the surface of the stock during cooking. Once the stock has reduced to your liking, taste it and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Strain the stock into a large bowl or measuring cup, discarding the solids. Cool to room temperature then store in the fridge until ready to use. If storing in the fridge, you can just scoop the congealed fat off the surface of the broth before using. If the stock is to be used immediately, do your best to skim some of the transparent, yellowish fat off the top of the broth with a large soup spoon.
Once the tomatoes and stock are done, start building the flavour base for the soup. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat 4 tbsp butter over medium heat until foaming. Add the minced shallots and immediately turn down the heat to medium-low, sautéing the shallots for 15-20 minutes, until they are deeply golden and soft. Season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining 1 tbsp butter and turn the heat back up to medium. Add the flour to the shallots, cooking and stirring for 1-2 minutes until the flour begins to smell somewhat nutty (this removes the raw taste). Stir in the tomato paste and allspice, cooking for another minute, until slightly darkened. Pour in 1 cup of the reserved chicken stock and whisk until the mixture is smooth and thick. Add another 3 cups of stock along with the roasted tomatoes (and any juices from the tomato pan). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
Add the chopped basil leaves to the soup and stir to incorporate. Working in batches (or not if using an immersion blender), puree the soup in a blender until it is very smooth. If using a blender, pop that little circular part out of the lid and use a tea towel in its place, routinely lifting the towel to allow the steam to escape. Or bypass the whole risk-of-scalding thing by using an immersion blender – just make sure you blend for a full 5 minutes, getting into every area of the pot to ensure that no stray chunks have been left behind. Once the soup is completely pureed, taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Place the soup back over medium heat (same pot is fine – just wipe out any debris) and stir in the heavy cream. Heat until hot, then remove from the burner and stir in brandy. Taste AGAIN and do any last-minute seasoning that you deem necessary. Be honest with yourself – what do YOU think the soup needs more of, if anything? Cream? Salt? Brandy? Adjust the soup to suit your tastes.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of heavy cream and chopped ribbons of basil. Swirl, taste, smile, repeat.