Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Leftover Tomato Soup

Here’s my inspiration (found in America’s Test Kitchen’s New Best Recipe), as well as my personal editing (I’m taking out these parts of the published recipe, and adding in these parts), based on what I actually have on hand:

Tomato Soup
America’s Test Kitchen’s New Best Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes packed in juice, drained, 3 cups juice reserved
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large shallots, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • pinch ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons brandy or dry sherry
  • salt and cayenne pepper

Preparation:

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.  Seed the tomatoes and spread in a single layer on the foil.  Sprinkle evenly with the brown sugar.  Bake until all the liquid has evaporated and the tomatoes cool slightly, then peel them off the foil; transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

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

Strain the mixture into a medium bowl; rinse out the saucepan.  Transfer the tomatoes and solids in the strainer to a blender; add 1 cup of the strained liquid and puree until smooth.  combine the pureed mixture and remaining strained liquid in the saucepan.  Add the cream and warm over low heat until hot, about 3 minutes.  Off the heat, stir in the brandy and season with salt and cayenne to taste.  Serve immediately.  (the soup can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 2 days.  Warm over low heat until hot; do not boil.)

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Ingredients:

  • Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
  • Tillamook Cheddar Cheese, sliced
  • Tillamook unsalted butter

Preparation:

Unwrap one end of your butter and place the whole stick of butter on end in a 10″ – 12″ skillet on medium or medium-high (depending on how well-done you like your grilled cheese).  Although Martha Stewart will tell you that this ruins the entire stick of butter, I find that the rest of the butter is completely fine, and you end up with less wasted butter.  Once the skillet begins to heat up, move the stick of butter around until there’s a thin coating of melted butter across the entire skillet.  Meanwhile, assemble your sandwiches.  Stack a slice of bread, a layer of cheese, and another slice of bread (you really needed a recipe for that?).  Once you’ve coated the skillet with butter, remove the remaining butter and set aside.

Place as many sandwiches as fit flat in your skillet.  Cover with a loose-fitting lid and cook until the underside is as golden brown as you like it.  I personally like mine to be a deep, coffee-brown, but this recipe will work for any done-ness level.  Flip sandwiches, adding more butter to the pan if necessary.  If your cheese is already thoroughly melted, there is no need for the lid while you cook the second side.  If not, the lid will speed the melting process so that your sandwich isn’t overcooked.

The Verdict:

I have to admit that this soup doesn’t measure up for me.  Tomato soup will always come from the ubiquitous Campbell’s can for me.  One time, early in our courtship, Travis surprised me with a complete ghetto lunch – including Campbell’s soup and velveeta and wonder bread.  When I was a teenager, working at camp Soundview, my absolute favorite lunch was mass-produced grilled cheese (white bread and American cheese) with tomato soup.  Nowdays, I prefer wheat bread and Tillamook cheddar, but I still love the Campbell’s version of the soup.  For some reason (maybe because we only have a food processor and no blender?), we can’t ever get the soup we make from canned tomatoes to smooth out.  Although America’s Test Kitchen would (and does, in print) disagree with me, I have to say that I love the tried & true condensed soup from a can.

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