Tomato Bisque

Tomato BisqueEvery Monday night there’s a TwitterChat I usually participate in called #FoodieChats (follow @foodiechats or @foodiechatsCHI for updates) where the moderator asks themed questions and people tweet their responses.  It’s a fun way to interact with the “Twitter Community” and I occasionally get some good ideas from it.  This week’s theme was “Eating Red” so all the questions revolved around the color red like “What’s you favorite red fruit? Cherries, strawberries, raspberries, etc.”  One question asked about lobster bisque which got me thinking about soups and how tomato bisque is redder than lobster bisque.  It’s frigid here in Chicago this week so, at that particular moment I decided to make a pot of tomato bisque.

Like my cassoulet research I discovered there are many recipes out there for tomato bisque.  A bisque is a pureed soup which can be thickened in a various number of ways, the chief thickener being a roux.  I turned to my cookbook shelf and pulled down my copy of The Professional Chef, Culinary Institute of America 7th Edition.  It’s one of the first “cookbooks” I purchased for myself waaaayyy back in the 90’s when I started to get serious about cooking at home.  I grew up near the Culinary Institute and have driven past it thousands of times, eaten at the restaurants there, played soccer against them, and even did some underage drinking behind it down along the railroad tracks by the Hudson River.  I believe The Professional Chef is actually a textbook for the students but it’s also probably the best kitchen reference guide I have.  I like to start with it when looking for a classic technique and sure enough, it’s got a recipe for smoked tomato bisque but uses rice as its thickener.  Interesting.

I don’t have a smoker (yet) or wood chips to smoke tomatoes for the garnish so I skipped that part and stuck with the plain bisque.  Now, pretty much all the recipes in this book are for large servings (for example, the soups to the left and right of this recipe are for 20 portions/1 gallon) but as luck would have it this particular recipe is for 2 quarts.  Awesome, no need to halve the recipe to make a more reasonable amount!  This recipe makes a really straightforward tomato bisque soup.  I was surprised the recipe didn’t direct call for the bisque to be strained but if you really puree the soup it comes out pretty smooth.  And by really puree I mean puree it and when you think it’s pureed enough stick that immersion blender back in the pot and puree some more.  Just keep doing it.  Trust me.

One last note on this particular tomato bisque; despite the recipe coming from such an esteemed institution like the Culinary Institute of America I’m pretty sure we can all agree the perfect garnish is and always will be a simple grilled cheese sandwich.

Tomato Bisque (adapted from The Professional Chef)

  • ¾-1 C diced onion
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • ¾ C leeks diced
  • ¼ C parsnips diced
  • 4 C water (recipe calls for vegetable stock but I didn’t have any)
  • 1 can of plum tomatoes (28 oz can)
  • 1 C tomato puree
  • 1 oz sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs thyme chopped
  • 4 oz cooked white rice
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • ¼ C balsamic vinegar

In a large pot over medium heat sweat the onions, celery, leeks, and parsnips in a small amount of the water until tender.

Add the remainder of the water, the can of tomatoes, tomato puree, sun-dried tomatoes, and time.  Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the cooked rice and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Puree the soup (food processor/immersion blender/food mill) until it is smooth.  Stir in balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve now or allow to cool for later service.

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