Almost everybody has eaten tomato soup in at least one of its many incarnations. Maybe you've graduated from the beloved Campbell's of your youth and tried making it in your own kitchen. I think that one can never have enough recipes for it. There are so many delicious variations on the classic that it begs for experimentation. Which brings me to this one.
I use a bit more than the original because I like a hearty bowl of soup. Having said that, I also cut back on fat/calories by using half-and-half instead of heavy cream. (Swimsuit season is among us...at some point). The major taste change comes from the addition of balsamic vinegar. Not only does it add a depth of flavor, but it also adds a brightness that accentuates the bold flavors of the tomatoes.
This soup is a great bowl in its own right with crackers or bread, but also makes a winning combination when paired with a sandwich (calling all grilled cheese lovers!).
4 ounces (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped (fronds removed and reserved for garnish)
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 (28-ounce) cans whole San Marzano tomatoes with juice, chopped
3 sprigs of fresh parsley
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
6 cups chicken stock
1 cup half-and-half
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the fennel, onions, carrots, and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes. Tie the parsley and thyme together with a piece of kitchen twine. Add the herb bouquet and the chicken stock to the vegetables. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Add the half-and-half and bring the mixture back to a simmer, then remove from the heat and let cool.
Discard the herb bouquet. Using a hand-held immersion blender or standing blender, blend the soup until desired consistency. (For a finer texture soup, pass the soup through a fine-mesh strainer.) Return the soup to the stove and warm through. Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from Fried Chicken and Champagne, by Lisa Dupar