For years, I spent summers working at a backpacking outfitter near Creede, Colorado. We guided mostly high school kids into the Weminuche Wilderness for six days of hiking, climbing, playing, and exploring both the external and internal landscape. The summers started in a cold and, often times, wintry May with guides training in the backcountry while the other staff unpacked and dusted off base camp from a nine month hibernation. Before I slept on the ground more than in a bed as a mountaineering guide, I worked in the kitchen. One of those cold, high country days I whipped up tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches to warm up base camp staff.
I grew up disliking any form of liquified tomato, especially flat, tasteless tomato soups. (Most kids had to finish their milk, I had to drink a cannon V-8 before heading to school). So I decided to make a soup I would enjoy. To my surprise it was such a hit they asked for the recipe. Problem was I didn't write anything down. I made it again the following week so I could write recipe card and it quickly became a favorite. Somewhere along the way it was mistakenly named "Kendall's Mom's Tomato Soup" – a surprise to my mother who never made tomato soup for us growing up.
Friends asks for the recipe all the time. And while this is not a food blog, still, I figured it was time to make it available for anyone to cook when the mercury drops and soup is on the brain. The original recipe fed 80-100. This version still makes enough for 4-5 in one sitting or 2-3 with tasty leftovers. It is a bit thicker than your normal tomato soup, with chunks of tomato, closer to a bisque in texture:
Start with a roux made up of butter, garlic, flour, and broth.
- Medium Heat, melt about half a stick of butter in at least a gallon sized, large pot.
- Toss in a 3-4 cloves of garlic chopped, (you can also go with about 2 table spoons of chopped garlic from a jar)
- Let the garlic and butter simmer just enough to get the flavor out.
- Sprinkle in 1-2 table spoons flour and mix, without burning the butter or garlic. (Use rice flour to go gluten-free)
- Pour in a Cup of chicken broth. (I now use vegetable broth since my wife is a vegetarian)
- Roux - butter, garlic, flour.
- Mix/stir, bring to simmer.
I use canned tomatoes but you can mix it up with canned and fresh chopped:
- Add 2 cans (14.5 - 16 oz cans) of diced tomatoes.
- Add 1 wee tin of tomato paste. Refill the tin with water to clean it out and add to soup.
- Add 1 can 28 oz. of crushed tomatoes.
- Stir, scooping deep to get the roux and tomatoes to mix.
- Add about 1/2 Cup or so of milk.
- OPTIONAL: 1/2 Cup of red wine, stir.
Keep heat at Medium to High. Then add spices, stirring as you go to keep them from clumping:
- Basil - 1-2 Tablespoons, or if you go with fresh Basil, chopped, 1- 1 1/2 tablespoons.
- Cayenne Pepper - to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon.
- Oregano - 1 Tablespoon
- Sage - 1/2 teaspoon.
- Tarragon - 1/2 teaspoon
- Cinnamon - 1/4 teaspoon.
- Garlic Salt - to taste (depending on how much fresh garlic you used)
- Salt - about a teaspoon or to taste.
- Black pepper - dash.
- Thyme - dash.
- Rosemary - OPTIONAL, chopped, very small amount - it carries a punch.
Reduce to a simmer for at least 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. The longer you let it cook the more flavor comes out. I top each bowl with a dash of fresh parmesan cheese.
This soup was created with Grilled Cheese Sandwiches in mind, but can be enjoyed without. If you are looking for a tasty grilled cheese, watch this clip from the film "Chef."
Served best with friends and a chill in the outside air.