Monday, February 10, 2014

Creamy Tomato Soup with Garlic Brown Butter Croutons

Is it as horrendously cold and snowy where you live as it is here in Connecticut? I can't take it anymore. I don't usually mind winter all that much, but we have had endless weeks of blah frigid weather. I miss my flip flops! But, until it's socially acceptable for them to make an appearance again, one of the few perks of winter is that you can make delicious warm, comforting soups like this. This reminded me a lot of the creamy tomato soup from Panera Bread, which I love. But these garlic brown butter croutons are even better than Panera's asiago croutons, believe it or not. It's no secret that I'm fairly obsessed with brown butter, so it's not surprising that these blew me away.

I lightened up the soup from the original recipe I used, partly because I'm trying to be healthier, and partly because I didn't feel like spending money on mascarpone and havarti when the recipe only called for a little of each. For someone trying to lose weight, having extra cheeses hanging around the house is bad news. When I made this, I had some heavy cream leftover from the cheese sauce on my Pulled Chicken Jalapeno Popper Sandwiches, so I did add a little for some richness, but without spending any extra money, and I definitely saved a few calories too.

Creamy Tomato Soup with Garlic Brown Butter Croutons
Recipe from How Sweet Eats (my food blogging idol/pretend best friend)

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp paprika
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp tomato paste
2 (28 oz) cans whole, peeled tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/3 cup heavy cream

2 cups cubed whole grain bread
3 Tbsp butter
2 garlic cloves, minced

Heat a large pot (I used my Dutch oven) over medium-low heat and add olive oil and 2 Tbsp butter. Add onions, salt, pepper, and seasonings, then stir well to coat. Cook until onions are soft, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomato paste, mashing the tomato paste and stirring to evenly distribute it throughout the onions. Cook for another 5-6 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add in both cans of the tomatoes (with juice) and the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally and mashing the tomatoes down a bit.

While the soup is cooking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Brown the 3 Tbsp of butter as follows: add the butter to a small pan over low to medium-low heat. Allow butter to melt and cook, stirring frequently, until it turns an amber color and develops an almost-nutty fragrance. Keep a close eye on it - it can go from brown to burnt very quickly! Remove from heat and let it sit for 2-3 minutes, then toss in the minced garlic cloves and stir for 30 seconds. Add bread cubes to a large bowl and pour the garlic/butter mixture over the bread, tossing well to coat. Place the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, tossing once or twice during cooking.

When the soup has simmered for an hour, use an immersion blender to completely puree all of the chunks of tomatoes, onions, and garlic. If you don't have an immersion blender, very carefully add the mixture to a regular blender (you will probably have to do this in two parts) and puree until totally smooth. Once smooth, stir in the heavy cream, then taste the soup and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve with a handful of croutons on top.

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