Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ChezCindy: Traveling Through Food Memories - Tomato soup

Tomato Soup with Puff Pastry

One of my favorite joys of traveling are the food memories created while visiting a special get-away location.  For us, it's all about the food in a beautiful new setting.  We plan out where we will eat, which restaurants to dine at, much like others plan which site-seeing spots they'll visit.   Fortunately, we are both food-obsessed.  Oh yeah, we fit in some hiking, walking, and visit scenic non-food sites too.  We need to have something to do before the next meal! 

I used to challenge myself to try to create a dish from my "taste memory".  But I have since learned that sometimes all you have to do is ask the chef for the recipe.  Often times, you can find the recipe on-line with a quick internet search.  So many restaurants and chefs have their own cookbooks now, it is much easier to find the actual recipe, that I no longer need to rely on trial and error.  The results being much more successful now.  And it is so much fun to relive the experience of traveling through your taste buds.   

Today's recipe is from a French restaurant in Yountville, California,  Bistro Jeanty.  Chef Philippe Jeanty, born in the Champagne region of France, has owned and operated his restaurant in Napa Valley since 1998.  I highly recommend dining at Bistro Jeanty if you can make it out to California.  Chef Jeanty has the most amazing tomato soup with an equally stunning presentation.  He serves the soup in an oven-proof bowl, with puff pastry baked on the top exterior of the bowl, puffed up like a dome.  It is not only beautiful, it is incredibly delicious. 

Now I didn't say the soup was low-calorie or healthy.  This is French cooking.  It has more butter and cream than you would ever imagine being included in tomato soup.  But it is delicious.  I have provided the original Bistro Jeanty recipe (full butter & cream amounts listed), but I have also noted my substitutions for reductions in the amounts of butter and cream. 

Bistro Jeanty Tomato Soup
Creme de Tomate en Croute

2 1/2 pounds tomatoes - ripe, cored & quartered
1/2 cup unsalted butter (my reduction: use only 4 tablespoons)
1/2 pound yellow onion, sliced
6 garlic cloves
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup water - use only if tomatoes are not ripe & juicy
4 cups heavy cream (my reduction: use only 1/2 cup cream)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (my reduction, optional)
Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 pound puff pastry
1 egg - beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a large stockpot over medium-low heat.  Add the onions, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.  Do not let the onion color.  Add the tomatoes, garlic, tomato paste, bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme and water if needed.  Simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the tomatoes and onions are very soft.  Remove the bay leaf.  Puree in a blender (working in batches) or use a hand-held immersion blender; strain*.  Return the soup to the pot.  Add the cream, salt, white pepper and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.  Bring soup back to a boil. 

Let the soup cool for 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.  Divide the soup among six 8-ounce bowls (oven-proof).  Roll out the puff pastry to 1/4 inch.  Cut 6 rounds slightly larger than the bowls.  Paint the dough with the egg wash and turn the circles egg-wash side down over the tops of the bowls, pulling lightly on the sides to make the dough tight like a drum. 
Lightly paint the top of the dough rounds with egg wash without pushing the dough down.  Bake in a pre-heated oven at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.  Do not open the oven door in the first few minutes or the dough will fall.  Remove from oven and serve immediately.

You can make the soup without the puff pastry for a less eventful dinner, as it is quite delicious without.  Or you can bake the puff pastry, cut into squares, on a sheet tray and then place on top of the soup as a large crouton.  This is also great with fresh baked cheddar scones.  See my recipe from another post, click here Cheddar Scones

*Note: straining the soup results in a very refined, silky texture.  I do not strain mine for a more rustic version.

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