WND – Not waiting on the time or the tide

July 23, 2009


I have a love/hate relationship with America’s Test Kitchen.  On the one hand any recipe you get from America’s Test Kitchen will be absolutely reliable.  It will work as advertised, and it will result in the quintessential version of whatever it is that you’re making.  If you’re looking for the archetypical beef stew, or apple pie, or blueberry slump, you cannot do better than referring to America’s Test Kitchen for a recipe.

On the other hand, in their quest for perfectly replicable results and classic recipes they often end up adding about seventeen more steps than I think are necessary, or am willing to contemplate doing.  I’m sure that their garlic bread with two kinds of garlic – slowly cooked in a little butter until sweet and nutty, and also sprinkled on raw at the last minute for punch – and eight steps is the best garlic bread in the world and if garlic bread had aspirations, this is what it would aspire to be.  But, I also think that’s a lot of work for garlic bread.

That being true, this cream of tomato soup from America’s Test Kitchen is so very easy that I didn’t even quail much at making a second (small) pot with vegetable stock instead of chicken stock on Wednesday evening for the unexpected vegetarian who came to Dinner.  As a side note, I want a cookbook called The Unexpected Vegetarian (illustrated by Edward Gorey of course – yes, I know he’s dead, hush), devoted to ways to turn recipes with meat into vegetarian options at the last minute, and how to stretch meat-y meals into dinners with enough protein for vegetarians too.  Or maybe it’s just me that has this issue on a regular basis.

Cream of Tomato Soup
Bread/Cheese/Cold Cuts

Cream of Tomato Soup
(serves 4-6)

Tomato soup and grilled cheese is possibly one of the most classic American meals.    A rigorous advertising campaign by Campbell’s Soup has cemented it in our minds as the ultimate comfort food for a cold rainy day.  I didn’t grow up in a house that watched much commercial TV, ever contained cans of soup, or made grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner (grilled cheese in my house was (a) toasted, and (b) for lunch not dinner).  On the other hand, when I was in high school we did have roasted tomato soup with gougere quite frequently, which is just a fancy version of tomato soup and grilled cheese.  This probably says something significant about my family.  I’m choosing not to contemplate what that is exactly.

2 28oz can whole, peeled tomatoes, liquid reserved
1 ½ Tbsp brown sugar
4 Tbp butter
½ cup onion (about ½ a medium onion), diced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
Pinch of nutmeg
2 Tbsp flour
1 ¾ cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 Tbsp brandy or sherry
¼ cup heavy cream

Over a strainer seed the tomatoes and reserve the juice (should be about 3 cups – if less, add water to make 3 cups).

raw tomatoes

Spread the seeded tomatoes on a foil lined baking sheet and sprinkle with the brown sugar.  Roast in a 450 oven for about 30 minutes, until tomatoes have dried out slightly and begun to caramelize.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pot and add the onions, tomato paste and nutmeg.  Stir to combine and then allow to sweat for 7-10 minutes until the onions are tender.  Whisk in the flour and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the chicken stock, reserved juice from the tomatoes and the roasted tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Remove from heat and puree in a blender.

Return the soup to the pot and add the brandy or sherry.  Bring up to a simmer and stir in the heavy cream.  Season with salt/pepper and cayenne to taste.


* ATK says to add the brandy before you return the soup to the stove because there’s a chance that the alcohol might ignite if you do it while the pot is over heat, but I’ve personally never seen that happen and routinely add alcohol to dishes while they’re over the flame.  Take from that what you will.

(serves 6-8 – I figure about 1 egg per person when I make gougere)

Gougere is basically pate a choux with added cheese.  You can make it in a stand mixer, but if you do you don’t get the benefit of being able to stand around rubbing your arm in a subtly pointed way and then when someone asks, admitting in a self-deprecating tone that you hand beat six eggs into the pate a choux.  There is no point in suffering in silence unless you’re going to do it loudly.  Or as Jes once less charitably put it, why be passive aggressive when you can be Passive Aggressive?

When I was in high school and we used to have this for dinner all the time my mother and I would alternate beating in the eggs.  Now, I believe she conscripts my father into kitchen duty when she makes gougere.  If there had been anyone else in my house last night when I was beating in eggs, you can believe that they would have been pressed into service.  However, there wasn’t and my arms felt like rubber by the time I was done.

As a side note, there is a reason to beat the eggs in by hand other than masochism and the desire to acquire a righteous glow.  If you beat the eggs in with a mixer you’ll add a lot more air to the gougere than if you do it by hand.  More air in the dough will make the gougere drier, and I like my gougere to have a crisp exterior and a warm gooey interior.  Your mileage, obviously, will vary depending on taste.

baked gougere

½ cup (1 stick) + 1 Tbsp butter
1 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups flour
2 tsp salt
6 eggs
2 cups gruyere, grated
2 cups sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped (or, if like me, you don’t like sun dried tomatoes, enough (chopped and seeded) fresh tomatoes to put a piece on top of each ball of gougere)

Grease a baking sheet and preheat oven to 400.

Melt the butter in the water and bring to a simmer.  Add the flour and salt all at once and stir vigorously to combine until a ball of dough forms in the center of the pan.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the eggs one at a time, beating each one until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball before adding the next egg (this will work for about the first 3 eggs, and after that you just have to beat until it pulls away from the pan a little and the dough stops being glossy before you add the next egg).  Add 1 ½ cups of gruyere.

beaten gougere

Drop the dough onto the baking sheet one spoonful at a time, making a loose wreath pattern.  Sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup of gruyere and dot with tomatoes.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and cook for 35-40 minutes.  Serve immediately.

gougere on pan
Note:  Gougere, like time and the tide, waits for no man, and needs to be served as soon as it comes out of the oven.

Just look at the tiny perfect local peaches.  The raspberries did not make it home this week, but they were a lovely addition to my lunch.


Bread/Cheese/Cold Cuts
This was for those of us who don’t think that soup and salad is really a meal unto itself.  Also, the Danish bakery that has a stand at the farmer’s market had dark rye bread for sale this week and while I can’t pronounce it, Rugbrød is very tasty and always makes me grateful that I grew out of my allergy to rye flour.

bread & cheese


One comment

  1. […] Recipe previously given: Not Waiting on Time or the Tide […]

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