Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
Staff Writer
 Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

Con Poulos

This speaks to the kid in all of us, yet satisfies adult tastes with good-quality aged Gruyère and a homemade roasted-tomato soup. I like to rest the sandwiches on the rim of the soup cup (The New York Times was so taken with this idea that they ran a feature on it). One of my trademarks is my home-baked bread made especially for mini sandwiches, burger buns, or rolls. If you don’t have the time (or inclination), you can still pull off this fun bite: simply use sliced sandwich bread and a 2-inch square cookie cutter and voilà — instant minis.

Ingredients

For the bun dough:

  • ¾ cup warm (110 degrees) water
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons sugar
  • ½ cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

For the bread:

  • Nonstick pan spray
  • 12 ounces Bun Dough (above), prepared through the first rise
  • Flour, for dusting

For the soup:

  • 4 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 large sweet onion, such as Maui or Vidalia, cut into quarters
  • 8 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 3 fresh basil sprigs
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water

For the sandwiches:

  • 8 slices aged Gruyère cheese
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

For serving:

Thirty-six 2- to 2 ½-inch vine-on red tomatoes

Directions

For the bun dough:

Whisk ¼ cup of the warm water, the yeast, and ¼ teaspoon of the sugar together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Uncover and pour in the remaining ½ cup warm water, the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, the powdered milk, 1 egg, and 1 cup of the bread flour. Sprinkle the salt over the flour and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until the mixture is moistened, 1-2 minutes. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat the dough until smooth, about 10 minutes.

Stop the mixer and switch to the bread hook attachment. Add ¼ cup of the remaining bread flour and mix on low speed until most of the flour is absorbed. Add a few butter cubes and beat until they’re incorporated. Then add another ¼ cup of flour. Continue to alternate adding flour and butter until they’re both completely incorporated and the dough cleans the side of the bowl during mixing, about 7 minutes (add 2-3 more tablespoons flour if needed).

Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface until it forms a ball, 2- 3 minutes. Grease a large bowl with the olive oil, place the dough ball in the bowl, and turn it over to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours.

For the bread:

Grease two 2 ¼-by-11 ¾ -inch loaf pans with nonstick pan spray and set aside. (If you have only one mini loaf pan, prep half of the dough at a time, placing the other half in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake it. The chilled dough might need an extra 15-30 minutes at room temperature before baking, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.)

Punch down the dough to deflate it, and turn it out onto a floured surface. Divide the dough in half, shape each piece into an 11-inch-long log, and place them in the prepared loaf pans. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot until the dough rises to the top of the loaf pans, 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the plastic wrap, cover the pans with aluminum foil, and place the pans on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven until golden, 20-25 minutes. Remove the foil and let the bread continue to bake until it is golden brown, another 3-5 minutes. Take the bread out of the oven and set it aside to cool completely in the pans. Remove the cooled loaves from the pans, and use a serrated knife to cut each loaf into 36 thin slices.

For the soup:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, and thyme in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Add the olive oil, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and stir together. Roast until the skin starts to peel off the tomatoes and the onions begin to brown, about 30 minutes. Discard the basil and thyme sprigs, and transfer the vegetables to a large pot. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer gently, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, uncover it, and let the soup cool for 20 minutes.

Transfer about half of the soup to a blender (don’t fill the blender jar more than 2/3 full) and purée. Pour the purée through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot. Repeat with the remaining soup. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

For the sandwiches:

Stack the cheese slices and slice the stack into 3 strips. Then slice them crosswise into thirds, creating 9 squares per slice. Butter 1 side of each bread slice. Place 2 slices of cheese on the unbuttered side of half of the bread slices and top with another bread slice, unbuttered side down, to make 36 sandwiches.

Heat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over medium-low heat. Cook the sandwiches in batches, browning each side until golden and crisp, about 1 minute per side. Serve immediately or allow the sandwiches to cool completely and follow the reheating instructions.*

For serving:

Carefully slice the stem end off each tomato, removing about one fourth of the tomato; set these tops aside. Use a small melon baller to scoop the seeds and flesh out of each tomato, being careful not to puncture the wall of the tomato or make the wall too thin (it needs to be able to hold the soup without buckling).

Divide the warm tomato soup among the tomato cups. Place the tomato “lid” back on top and serve with the warm grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tomato Soup Shopping Tip

Italian food is about simplicity and letting the ingredients shine. So make sure you get ingredients that are great quality and flavor. Farmers markets and specialty stores will have great produce and products. Just be sure to have some great olive oil.

Tomato Soup Cooking Tip

Unlike other highly regarded cuisines, Italian cooking is usually simple to make with many dishes having only 4 to 8 ingredients. Italian cooks rely chiefly on the quality of the ingredients rather than on elaborate preparation.

Tomato Soup Wine Pairing

Chenin blanc with cream soups; pinot noir, gamay, grenache, or other light red wines with tomato-based soups, including tomato-based seafood soups; sercial or bual madeira or fino or manzanilla sherry with consommé or black bean soup; amontillado with black bean soup.