Smoky 'n Sweet Roasted Tomato & Thyme Soup a la "The Philips" (and don't forget the Frico!)
Recipe yields 2 quarts of soup=6 servings, plus 12 parmesan crisps
Special Equipment List:
cutting board; chef's knife; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; aluminum foil; parchment paper; food processor; 3 1/2-4-quart chef's pan or stockpot w/lid; 6"-8" nonstick skillet; nonstick spatula
12 medium-large sized, vine-ripened tomatoes, about 4 pounds, top core removed, tomatoes sliced in half, pole-to-pole
2 yellow or sweet onions, very coarsely chopped, about 2 pounds
2 heads garlic, peeled, about 2 ounces peeled garlic cloves
8-10 sprigs fresh thyme
8 tablespoons olive oil (1/2 cup), total throughout recipe
3-4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend
3 cups vegetable stock (chicken stock can be substituted)
1/2-3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2-1 teaspoon additional sea salt
1. Cover a baking pan with aluminum foil and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper.
2. Add the onions and garlic to pan. Drizzle with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Using your hands, toss to coat. Place the thyme sprigs on the top, followed by a light grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend.
3. Arrange the tomato halves over the top of the onion mixture, spacing them slightly apart. Drizzle tomatoes with the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Sprinkle the tops of the tomatoes with brown sugar, followed by a light grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend.
4. Roast on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven, about 1-1 1/2 hours, or until onions are caramelized and tomatoes have a bit of a char to their tops.
**Note: Timing will vary depending upon the consistency and ripeness of the tomatoes. What the finished mixture looks like is more important than the time it takes.
5. Transfer the vegetable mixture to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. If you do not have a large processor, do this in 2-3 batches.
6. Using a series of about 30 rapid on-off pulses, process until a "semi-chunky" puree is formed, or a puree to your liking.
7. Transfer to a 3 1/2-4-quart chef's pan or stockpot. Add the stock and smoked paprika. Over moderate heat, bring to a gentle simmer. Taste. Adjust seasoning, adding additional sea salt, if necessary. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover pan/pot and set aside, to steep for about 15-20 minutes, to allow the flavors to marry.
Let's face it, we've all pretty much grown up eating tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. One without the other is, well... almost un-American. In its simplest form, "frico" (pronounced free-co) are fried Italian Parmesan cheese crisps that are typically broken into pieces and then sprinkled over a main dish or salad, to add a flavorful, cheesey, salty, crunch. In the case of this soup, we're going to float one on the top of each bowl. The Philips will certainly serve you a great grilled cheese sandwich with your tomato soup if you request it, but, I find their parmesan crisps to be just plain fun. It just so happens that I've been making these for my own kids for quite some time here in Melanie's Kitchen, and I can't wait to show you how easy they are to make. Frico is, simply put, a way to bring the grilled cheese directly to your soup!
6 ounces of shredded Parmigianno-Reggiano cheese
6"-8" nonstick skillet and a nonstick spatula
1. Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons, in a 3" disc shape, evenly into the bottom of the skillet, keeping the cheese "light" around the edges so it looks lacy. When golden on the underside, after about 1-1 1/2 minutes:
2. Slip the spatula underneath it and flip it over. Cook on the second side, about 20-30-40 seconds, until second side is golden brown too. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to cool. Repeat this process as many times as your frico-loving heart desires (which will be 12). Portion soup into 6 warmed serving bowls, top each with a Parmesan crisp and one to the side. Serve immediately!
**Cook's Note: This soup is a tomato soup lovers dream come true. It freezes beautifully and my recipe is written to double or triple without any more effort than an extra 5-10 minutes in preparation time!