Grilled cheese and tomato soup is one of those combos that drift into our lives through mysterious tradition, and never leave. Like PB&J, pizza and ranch, chicken and waffles, and so many food teams that would make you pause if you thought too hard about them, grilled cheese and tomato soup just works, and who really cares why? The soup works as a wonderful balancing sauce for the sandwich, and likewise the crispy, cheesy bread acts like the world’s best crouton to garnish the simple soup. Well done, person-who-invented-this.
In our kitchen here at my home, we’ve made several attempts at tomato soup in the past, with mixed (read: “not”) success. In the journey of getting disenchanted and weirded out by all kinds of foods we thought we could trust, canned soup hit the B-list early on. Salty, MSG-y, and mysterious, canned soups are convenient (and usually delicious) but not helpful in many other ways. So we tried our hand at tomato soup, and mostly learned lessons in what not to do: don’t use grocery store tomatoes, bad technique, or ketchup (ever…). But now, older and wiser, we’ve worked out the kinks and make a pretty mean homemade tomato soup. And by that I mean a pretty delicious homemade tomato soup. Moving along.
This time I tried to class up the grilled cheese as well, with the goal being to add to the experience without taking away from the simplicity of the classic sandwich. I decided on a yogurt-based remoulade that I invented for the occasion, and lightly sauteed red onions. It worked really well. The idea of the yogurt was to add creaminess without more fat that would distract from the richness of the cheese, and the onions provided a nice counterpoint to the other calmer flavors in the meal. Try it out and tell me what you think!
Homemade tomato soup – the recipe:
2 28 oz cans of whole, peeled, not-Italian-style tomatoes (OR equivalent from your garden, preferably)
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tb butter
1/2 cup chicken stock, heated and ready
1/4 cup flour
1.5 cups milk (OR half and half OR light cream)
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
The following is good practice for any creamy soup, especially if you’re trying to sub in milk instead of something richer. It can be tricky and annoying if you don’t do it right, so go slowly and pay attention so your soup technique can be a go-to skill in your arsenal.
In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat the butter at medium heat and gently sweat/sautee the onion, carrot, and celery for a few minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and sautee for another minute or so.
Add the flour and mix in thoroughly to the butter/onions/garlic nonsense that’s happening in your pan. You’re in a sense creating a makeshift roux, which is a oil/flour emulsion from which you can build the rest of the soup. (It may not be an actual roux, so feel free to correct me with the actual terminology.) The idea is to slowly mix any watery liquid into the oil paste so that it’s completely integrated and enveloped in the starches from the flour. If you dumped your stock or milk in at this point, you’d get a lot of little lumps of flour floating around a very thin soup. I’ve done that a lot of times, and I can tell you it makes you sad. So do it right.
Take your heated chicken stock and slowly mix it in to your onion mix, making sure to fully integrate it before adding more. Again, go slowly with this step. Continue until fully mixed.
Add your tomatoes. You can use the sauce from the cans, or not, according to your preference. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until everybody seems soft and bubbly and happy together.
Blend the whole mixture as thoroughly as you can, and strain it through a medium-mesh screen of some sort. I use a cheap metal colander (one of my favorite tools in the kitchen) for this kind of thing, and find it works really well. You can use a ladle to work the soup through the mesh.
Return the puree to the pot, and slowly add the milk as it simmers. Add salt and pepper, and allow to heat through for a few minutes for flavors to marry. Serve and enjoy!
Grilled Cheese with Yogurt Remoulade – the recipe:
1/2 cup yogurt
3 tb ketchup
1 tb dijon
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp horseradish
1-2 drops liquid smoke
1 clove garlic, roasted
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
cheese of your choice
Mix the sauce ingredients together. Taste and adjust according to your preference.
Feel free to skip the following if you already know how to make a sandwich:
Give each side of the bread a generous amount of sauce.
Briefly sautee the onions, then arrange them on one of the slices of bread.
Layer slices of cheese over the bread. Close the two slices, cook on a well-buttered pan (cast iron works well) until brown on both sides and the cheese is melted. Cut in half and serve.
Alright, that’s all! Remember to sign up for the emails if you haven’t yet. What are some of your favorite food combos?