This past weekend I had a dinner party for my friend Erin's Birthday. I wanted to make it special, but simple and comforting at the same time. In my twisted little mind this meant I would make literally everything from scratch, right down to that cultured butter.
My original plan included making pasta from scratch, but since I am cursed in all things mechanical and technological, the brand new little manual pasta roller I had turned out to be busted. I had the dough all ready to go, but alas... it was not to be. I attempted to roll out the dough by hand once, but I just couldn't get it thin enough. Luckily, I have a fabulous fresh pasta shop right down the road from me so not all was lost! We still had yummy fresh pasta with a beef and pork bolgnese.
Our first course was this tomato soup. Maybe it was a good thing I didn't end up making the pasta, because I think this soup and grilled cheese stole the show. It's sweet and tangy, and who can say no to an ooey gooey crusty grilled cheese? The soup itself is stupid easy to make and soooo tasty. The grilled cheese sandwiches were made from some freshly baked Italian bread I had made, Cato Corner Farm's "Dairyere" cheese, and my homemade cultured butter. I simply cut them up into little bite sized "croutons." YUM!
You can use any kind of bread or cheese for your sandwiches you'd like. I like a nice gruyere with this. I'd strongly recommend using a Sherry wine that you'd actually like to sip on too!
Sherried Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons
(adapted from The Pioneer Woman)
For the Soup:
6 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 28 oz can pureed tomato
1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomato
3/4 of a bottle(46 oz) tomato juice
2 tablespoons concentrated vegetable or chicken stock
3-6 tablespoons sugar (to taste)
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup Sherry
1 1/2 cups cream
Small handful each of fresh chopped basil and parsley
Lots of black pepper
Salt to taste
1. Sautee diced onions in butter over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato juice, chicken stock concentrate, sugar, paprika, black pepper and stir.
2. Bring to a low simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes. Turn off heat and add the Sherry and cream. Stir in the fresh herbs. Taste for sugar and salt.
For the Grilled Cheese
1 loaf crusty bread, sliced
2 cups of your choice of melting cheese, grated or sliced
1. Preheat a pan over medium low heat. Assemble your sandwiches with butter on each side of the sandwich and a good palm full of cheese or a few slices in between.
2. The key is to cook your grilled cheese fairly low and slow - it will allow the cheese to melt while the outside gets good and crispy. About 5 minutes on each side.
3. Remove your sandwiches from the pan and cut into bite sized pieces. Arrange on top of your soup and serve!