Ah, the after school special. Was there anything better than coming home after a long day of physics tutoring, marching band practice, and hours of working on your friend’s failed cable access television show than a hot bowl of tomato soup and grilled cheese? Okay, maybe your high school experience was different from mine, but I’m sure your feelings are the same for the soup and sandwich.
Well, we’re not in high school anymore, so it’s time to put away those Campbell’s condensed tomato cans and make yourself some big boy soup. Lucky for you, it’s a pretty easy recipe it will make enough soup for days. DAYS!
So I usually don’t spring for the San Marzano’s because, well, I’m cheap. But since the tomatoes are really the star of this soup those extra 3 bucks per can are gonna be worth it. Plus these were on sale so it was actually only an extra buck per can. Totally worth it.
Start with the butter onion, garlic, and thyme. Tie the thyme sprigs together with some butchers twine or just string without any dyes. You’re gonna need to fish that out later on and tying them together will make your life a whole lot easier. Don’t worry about how big or small you chop everything, since that’s gonna be all blended up later on.
Once the onion is translucent, add your tomato paste. Brown that junks and it’s gonna give you flavor for days. DAYS!
Add your tomatoes, some broth, some water, and let the magic begin.
Oh yeah, don’t forget the secret ingredient: Parmesan rinds! Sounds weird but those things are totally edible. I mean, I wouldn’t eat them straight up, but it’s great to add some body to soup or… stews. I don’t really know what else. If I think of anything I’ll let you know. So they sell these now at Whole Foods for like $50 or something ridiculous because it’s Whole Foods and they think they can sell you essentially kitchen scraps for top dollar. They make me so mad sometimes!
…anyway I got these at Whole Foods.
If you buy fresh parmesan regularly (which I strongly suggest you do), you can always save the rinds yourself in the freezer and you’ll be good to go.
After simmering for an hour or so, fish out your thyme and parmesan rinds. The parmesan swells up, darkens in color, and kinda looks like pork belly at this point, but do not be fooled! It won’t be pleasant to bite into.
Just got this immersion blender and I love it. Just a standard $30 Cuisinart, nothing fancy. It’s awesome.
Add a little more parm, some S&P, let simmer a little longer, and you’re all set.
It might be a little dumb to put up instructions on how to make a grilled cheese, but there are a few tricks I’ve picked up over my many years of grillin’ up cheeses that not all my know.
First thing: butter your bread FIRST. That way you’ll get a nice even brown on both sides with less chance of burning.
Second: I usually prefer good ol’ American cheese for my grilled cheese because it’s classic and when it’s melted it’s just so damn good. But since I’ll be cooking this a bit longer to make it crisp up, I’ll be using a sharp white cheddar that melts slower and will actually give you a nice crisp crust the longer you cook it.
Remember: Butter side out!!
Cut it up into crouton-sized bites, throw it on some foil, pop ’em into your oven.
The more you know.
TOMATO PARMESAN SOUP:
2 cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
10 sprigs thyme, tied together with butcher’s twine
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup basil leaves loosely packed
2-3 Parmesan rinds
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp sugar
2 cups beef stock
6 cups water
Salt and Pepper
Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add thyme, onion, and garlic. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, 10–12 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add tomato paste. Keep cooking, stirring often, until paste browns in spots, about 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes with juices, sugar, beef stock, and water to pot. Increase heat to high and bring soup to a simmer. Add the parmesan rinds and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until soup thickens and reduces by 20%, about an hour. Turn off heat and let cool. Remove thyme sprigs and parmesan rinds, discard… or eat… or do whatever you want with them. Add basil leaves, then using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth, about 45-60 seconds.
If you don’t have an immersion blender, work in batches and purée soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to pot. Heat and bring back to simmer for 10-15 more minutes.
GRILLED CHEESE CROUTON:
2 slices crusty italian bread
1-2 slices of white cheddar cheese
Pre-heat an oven to 250 degrees.
Heat a skillet on medium-high heat. Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice of bread, butter-side down on the hot skillet, put cheese on top, then place the other slice of bread butter side UP on top of the cheese. Butter-side always OUT!
When the cheese is slightly melted and the bottom slice is evenly browned, flip the whole sandwich over and brown the other side. Remove from heat and let cool.
Cut up the sandwich into crouton-sized bites, place on cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the bread is dried and crisp.
Ladle soup into bowls, top with 2-3 croutons, garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Enjoy with some Lifetime Original After School Specials.