I’m currently living in the land of chains. A little outside of Pittsburgh, I’ve found myself in a position where I don’t have to plan a trip to Target days in advance, and then drive 20 minutes to get there. It’s convenient and I’m not complaining. Food enthusiasts tend to knock chain restaurants; I saw Anthony Bourdain live, and he went on for 45 minutes about how Olives don’t really grow in a Garden and what is a Spaghetti Warehouse? I mean come on!? It was observational humor and it was not good.
But I’ll tell you, I’m not mad at chain restaurants. I like good food wherever I can find it, I don’t discriminate. Around here, there are many that I haven’t tried and with which I have been pleasantly surprised. Sure, you’re more likely to get a salad that will set you back 1,300 calories, but you also might get a really great sandwich, or some perfectly acceptable enchiladas, and on a weeknight out, sometimes that’s all I’m looking for.
This soup was inspired by one such chain. A late lunch with my mom on a chilly day before indulging in afternoon mani/pedis, which is by far one of the best perks about living here, led me to order a bowl of soup and a side salad. My usual go-to soup at restaurants is French Onion, but that wasn’t an option, so I went with the Tomato Bisque. I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since which is why I tried to recreate it at home as soon as I could.
The trick to good Tomato Bisque isn’t a trick at all–Tomato Bisque is so velvety, creamy, good, because it has cream in it, and cream is so velvety, creamy, good. Forget about the fat grams and go with it.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve alongside some good crusty bread or a nice grilled cheese, which is what we did. I have said that there is nothing better than a good grilled cheese, except maybe a good grilled cheese with creamy tomato bisque.
Generally, I’m not a fan of tomato soup. It feels like eating pasta sauce without the added benefit of pasta and it weirds me out. I’m also, generally, not a fan of thick, creamy soups–I prefer those of the broth variety. However, both of those generalities go out the window where Tomato Bisque is concerned. I love tomato bisque, with its fresh taste and velvety texture. It screams for crusty, cheesy bread, and as I’m usually screaming for crusty, cheesy bread too, it works.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed with the back of a spoon
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup Heavy Cream
- 3 Tablespoons chopped basil, plus more for serving
- In a large, heavy pot, add olive oil over medium heat. Add vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 7-10 minutes. Add tomatoes and crush with the back of a spoon, then add chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, remove from heat and blend until very smooth, either with an immersion blender or a traditional blender, blending in batches. Return to low heat and add cream stirring to combine. Simmer for 10 more minutes, then taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Add chopped basil and stir.
- Serve immediately, with either crusty bread or, even better, a grilled cheese sandwich!