I decided I was going to enjoy a toasted cheese sandwich (henceforth, "sammich") along with some nice tomato soup, but naturally I couldn't just slap some American singles (ew!) on white bread and cook up a can of condensed soup. In the first place, I like my cheese sammiches and my soup to be more substantial than that. More to the point, I get a lot of joy out of the process of a long, slow soup prep. The anticipation while everything cooks down, and that luxuriant hour as your kitchen smells more and more like heaven... good times!
1 piece of raw bacon, sliced into 1" pieces
5 miniature boiler onions (I used miniature red onions, but cippolini onions would work just as well), diced fine
3 cloves chopped garlic
1 tbsp capers, with juice (I know some people don't like capers, but I love 'em; if you just want the flavor and don't want to get that little caper surprise in the finished soup, you can always strain it before serving)
1 cup red wine
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
2 cups chicken broth
1 large (29 oz) can tomato puree
Put the bacon pieces into the bottom of a medium sized pot, along with a tbsp olive oil if you like. Cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove the bacon pieces and most of the rendered fat, leaving roughly 2 tbsp of bacon fat in the bottom of the pan. (The bacon itself is not needed for the recipe, so I snacked on it while cooking, but you could always toss them into the soup at the end for a bit of crunchy bacon goodness!).
Toss the onions into the bacon fat, and cook until slightly browned, about five minutes.
Toss the capers and garlic in, and cook for about 1 minute; just enough to add some color to the garlic.
Add the red wine, and deglaze the pot. Cook over medium low heat for five minutes, or until the wine reduces by about half.
Add oregano, rosemary, and thyme. Cook for 1 minute.
Add chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Slowly, and carefully add the tomato puree. A lot of tomato soup recipes call for a dash of tomato paste here, but I think the base is thick and rich enough as it is.
Bring to a boil, while stirring frequently, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for an hour.
Two slices of good rye
Enough extra sharp white cheese to cover one layer of sammich, cut to about 1/4" thick
Enough Cotswold cheese (Double Gloucester cheese mixed with onions and chives is called Cotswold) to cover another layer, also 1/4" thick
1 tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp butter for pan
Put the sammich together, and heat 1 tbsp butter in a skillet that is large enough to accommodate your sammich over medium heat (err to medium low; you don't want the butter to burn).
Cook over medium (or medium low) for five minutes, or until the bottom of the sammich is browned and crunchy, but not burnt. I find that it's easiest to check by using a large flat spatula, and lifting up the entire sammich.
When one side is browned, the cheese should be just starting to melt. Lift the sammich out of the pan, and pour in 1 tbsp of melted butter (I toss it into a mug, and melt it for 30 secs in the microwave). Flip the sammich, and continue to cook. After five minutes, the bottom should be nicely browned and the cheese should be melted. Remove to a plate, and lightly dust the top with garlic powder.
Put the soup into a bowl or cup, and top with finely sliced cheddar and finely diced chives, or even a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche.
This is a VERY hearty soup, and a solid mug of it, along with the sammich, should fill you up nicely. I still served it in a bowl, as shown above, because I like to dip my sammich in my soup... :)
A nice glass of sweet iced tea pairs very well indeed!
Tomorrow, friends, ADVENTURE!! :)