June 20th, 2016
Archive for Soups
Several months ago one of my friends introduced me to a little sandwich shop where they specialize in gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. They have all different kinds, such as a French Dip grilled cheese, a Monte Cristo grilled cheese, and even a Thanksgiving grilled cheese with turkey and mashed potatoes on it. The restaurant is called Cravings Bistro, and it’s in Pleasant Grove, Utah. So the first time I went there, I had one of their gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and some of their Creamy Tomato Basil soup. I thought it was so good, and since I didn’t have a recipe for a really good tomato soup, I decided I was going to try to duplicate the one at Cravings Bistro. I started off with a recipe by Barefoot Contessa, but I made several changes to it, including adding brown sugar because I liked how the soup from Cravings Bistro was sweeter than hers. I also used a food processor to blend up the ingredients just before serving it because I think it makes the soup look more appetizing. And guess what, my husband and I did a taste test with my soup and some of the soup from Cravings Bistro, and both of us thought mine was even better! But, shhhh, don’t tell them because theirs is really good, too!
At Cravings Bistro, they serve their Tomato Basil Soup with grilled cheese croutons, so I decided to do the same thing for my photograph. To make the croutons, I just made regular grilled cheese sandwiches with good-quality bread, and then I cut off the crusts and cut the sandwiches into 1-inch squares. Then I put the squares on a baking sheet and toasted them in a 300-degree oven for five minutes. They were very tasty with the soup, too.
Recipe by Barefoot Contessa/Heavily Adapted by Winner Dinners/Inspired by Cravings Bistro
3 pounds Roma/plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sea salt
1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 cups onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce can) plum tomatoes, with their juice
2 ounces fresh basil, chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons dried crushed rosemary
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (32-ounce container) chicken stock
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss together the tomatoes, carrots, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes and carrots in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.
In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, rosemary, thyme, chicken stock, and brown sugar. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes and carrots, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. In batches, process the soup in a food processor until well blended. Return the soup to the pot and heat through.
My family and I go to PF Chang’s quite often because they have fantastic Chinese food. It’s my youngest daughter’s favorite restaurant, and she chooses to go there for her birthday every year. My husband and I always order their Hot and Sour Soup before our main dish because we love spicy foods, and egg drop soup doesn’t have enough of a kick for us.
I can’t remember where I got this recipe, but I have been working on it and making changes to it for quite some time to get it as close to PF Chang’s recipe as I could. I think it’s really close. In fact I’m not sure if I would be able to tell the difference if I was doing a blind taste test.
Sometimes I serve this soup with egg rolls that I purchase from the freezer section of the grocery store. It makes for a quick and easy Chinese dinner. Enjoy the soup!
Recipe Heavily Adapted by Winner Dinners/Origin Unknown
Serves about 6
1/2 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms
3 (14-ounce) cans chicken broth
3/4 cup soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon white pepper
6 ounce chicken breast, cut into small strips
1/2 cup thinly sliced bamboo strips (from a can)
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1-1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
6 ounces tofu, cut into small pieces
Reconstitute the dried mushrooms according to package directions, and then slice them very thinly. Bring chicken broth to a boil. Add soy sauce, white pepper, mushrooms, chicken, and bamboo strips. Let cook for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine cornstarch and water. Add the cornstarch mixture to the soup a little at a time and stir until thick. Add the eggs and cook for 30 seconds. Add vinegar and tofu. Heat through.
Several years ago we took our kids on a trip to Washington DC, and we stayed at a French hotel called Sofitel. One night we were out seeing all of the monuments, but I had a sore throat and wasn’t feeling well. My husband offered to continue the tour with our kids, so I got on the subway and headed back to the hotel alone. When I got there, I went into their restaurant and ordered some of their French Onion Soup. Oh, it was wonderful. I haven’t forgotten it in all these years. It was the perfect comfort food for somebody with a sore throat.
Ever since then, I have wanted to be able to make French Onion Soup that is as good as what I had at the hotel that day. I can’t even remember where I got this recipe, but I have worked on it for a long time, making a lot of changes to it. I think I finally have a recipe that’s pretty close. Bon appétit!
Recipe Heavily Adapted by Winner Dinners/Origin Unknown
3 tablespoons butter, cut into 3 pieces
4 pounds of large yellow onions (about 6 or 7), halved and cut pole to pole into 1/4-inch thick slices
1-3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 cup cooking sherry
2 (14.5-ounce) cans of chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can of beef broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon ground thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon pepper
fresh thyme for garnish (optional)
1 French baguette, diagonally cut into 1/2-inch slices (you need 8 slices)
1 tablespoon butter, melted
8 ounces Gruyere cheese, sliced
Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed large (at least 7-quart) Dutch oven with a nonstick cooking spray. Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt. Baked, covered, for 1 hour (the onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume). Remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until the onions are very soft and dark brown, 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours longer, stirring the onions and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot after 1 hour.
Using oven mitts since the pot will be hot, stir in the sherry and cook on the stove, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, beef broth, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, pepper and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring just to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
For the croutons: While the soup simmers, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush them with the melted butter. Bake in a 400-degree oven until the bread is crisp, about 6 minutes. Set aside. Increase the oven temperature to 450.
Set 4 individual oven-safe crocks on a baking sheet and fill each with soup. Top each bowl with 2 baguette slices and place slices of Gruyere cheese on top, overlapping the edges of the crocks with the cheese. Bake at 450 until the cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges, 3 to 6 minutes. If desired, garnish with fresh thyme.