Friday, October 26, 2012

Tomato soup with poblano chiles

The residents at work welcome a pot of scratch-made soup each weekday for lunch. I prepared five hearty soups as two rain storms sloshed their way through Sacramento this week. A thick lentil soup was served alongside Polish sausage on Monday. Tuesday saw the traditional match-up of grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.

 Wednesday's chicken tender was served with up with a flavor packed chicken rice soup. Cheesy potato soup complimented a tuna salad sandwich on Thursday. And on Friday, the residents enjoyed tomato rice soup with an Ortega cheeseburger.

Tuesday's tomato soup was, by far, the star of the week. It's one that I enjoy cooking, especially during rainy weather. Twice featured on these pages (here and here), the soup can be prepared in less than one hour.

To prepare, I generally combine one-part tomato sauce, one-part broth (chicken or vegetable) and one-part bechemel. This soup uses a variation of that formula. Instead of preparing the three components in separate pots, I cooked it in a single stockpot.

I wanted to prepare tomato soup with a differing flavor profile, something that's better than canned tomato soup. Salsa is always popular at work. With a large stock of poblano chile peppers in the refrigerator, I figured the typical salsa ingredients (tomatoes, peppers, cumin and cilantro) would provide a robust Southwestern flavor profile for the soup.

While the soup doesn't mimic the flavor of salsa, poblano chile peppers, cumin and cilantro give the tomato a unique flavor profile. And please leave feedback (especially Chef Brian and Chef Tyrone). I'm always interested in how others (both professionals and home cooks) modify my recipes. Enjoy.


Ingredient amounts are estimated as I prepared the soup on the fly.

4 ounces unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 roasted poblano chile peppers, chared skin removed and diced
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 (8 ounce) can tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1-1/2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups sour cream or Mexican crema
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or cojita cheese

Melt butter in a 8- to 10-quart heavy sauce pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, celery and peppers to butter. Sweat until softened, but not browned. Add flour and stir to form a white roux. Cook roux-vegetable mixture for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring continually. Stir in tomato paste and cumin and cook for an additional minute.

Add crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, lime juice, bay leaves, oregano and cilantro. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes to meld flavors. In a medium bowl, temper sour cream by slowly whisking 2 cups of hot soup into sour cream. Pour tempered sour cream into soup while whisking.

Check seasoning. Add a little sugar if necessary to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes. If the soup is too thick, thin with a little chicken broth or milk. Season with salt and ground white pepper to taste.

Makes approximately 3 quarts, or 12 (8-ounce) servings. Garnish each bowl with fresh cilantro leaves and Parmesan cheese.

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