Hello my long lost friends.

I have missed you over the weekend.

I had a glorious three-day weekend that was lovely and relaxing. My poor husband has been a shut-in as he recuperates from PRK surgery, so we did a lot of hanging out at home which for me meant lots of time spent in the kitchen.

Last week, when it was cold and miserable (well, that has been pretty much every week since November), I had a hankering for tomato soup and grilled cheese.

As I have mentioned before, I’m obsessed with soup in the winter. However, I just can’t stomach that canned condensed nonsense that some people sell as soup. It is watery and salty, and I personally just don’t dig it.

I won’t judge you too much if you happen to enjoy the stuff.

So, on a cold day, I decided my take on this comfort food meal was a necessity.

Please believe me when I say that ANYONE could make this recipe successfully. If you are nervous in the kitchen, try this recipe out. Because you will meet with success, and it will increase your confidence.

I actually really love to entertain with simple meals like this. Everyone loves comfort food, and serving food like this creates a casual and relaxed atmosphere.

Here is what you’ll need for the tomato/shrimp/crab bisque (AKA fancy ‘mater soup):

For two people with enough for leftovers:

2 T. butter

1/2 of a white or yellow onion, chopped (or in my case 2 large shallots, because that is all I had!)

3 cloves of garlic, diced finely

28 oz. of tomatoes (I used whole San Marzano tomatoes, but you can use whatever you want!)

1 to 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper

1/4 t. crushed red pepper

6 large peeled/deveined UNCOOKED shrimp

4 oz. of lump crab meat (my grocery store carries this by the seafood counter- they were out the day that I was shopping for these ingredients, so I subbed it out for a can of white crab meat)

1/2 c. of cream

Start by melting your butter over medium heat. I like to use a medium sized pot.

Toss in your onions. You want to cook these slowly so that they get all translucent and sweet. If you cooked this over high heat, the onions would caramelize and turn a little brown. That won’t be the end of the world; however, I prefer a slow cooked onion.

Do what you like.

After the onions have cooked for about 4 minutes, drop in your garlic.

Stir it up.

Let that cook for about a minute.

Oops, onion are getting a little caramely.

I’m such a hypocrite.

Add in your canned tomatoes.

Stir it up.

Immediately after adding your tomatoes, feel free to drop in your stock.

I like stock because it is more flavorful than broth. If you only have broth, it will certainly do the trick!

Once you have added the broth and stirred it in, add your salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.

Stir that up as well.

Now, for the fun part.

I used an immersion blender to get all of the chunks of tomato broken down and smooth.

If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can transfer your soup carefully to a blender and mix it up. Then, pour it back into your pot.

If you have neither an immersion blender or a regular blender, do not be discouraged!!

All that you need to do is use canned crushed tomatoes (rather than diced or whole tomatoes). Your soup will have some texture, but it will not have giant tomato piece.

So, no excuses!! You can and MUST still make this soup.

Bring your soup to a boil. Let it boil for about a minute.

Then, turn your heat down to medium while you add in your final ingredients.

Get your shrimp ready.

Truth be told, I don’t love shrimp. However, in small quantities I enjoy it.

So, I only used 6 large shrimp. If you are a shrimp lover, go ahead and use more!

Peel and devein your shrimp if you couldn’t purchase them already prepared.

I must insist that you purchase uncooked shrimp (these are available at the fish counter). You see, when you put cooked shrimp into a pot to cook some more, they become over cooked and slightly rubbery.

Yuck.

If you buy the uncooked shrimp, you toss them into a pot  and in three minutes they are cooked perfectly.

And the texture is much more palatable.

Chop your shrimp into bite sized pieces.

And add it to your soup.

After a minute, add in your crab.

Again, the lump crab would be perfection, but the canned crab was pretty darn good!

Finally, turn off your heat.

Add in your heavy cream (look for heavy whipping cream in the dairy aisle).

And stir it up.

Soup is ready to go!!!

Now, while that soup is about as lovely as it comes, it will be taken to over-the-top delicious if you make a grilled cheese sandwich to go with it.

And by grilled cheese sandwich, I don’t mean a slice of Kraft singles between pieces of white bread.

I purchased a loaf of ciabatta bread at the grocery store, but any light and delicious bread would do (sourdough, french bread, etc).

I think a grilled cheese must have at least two cheeses, and I take the cheese selection very seriously.

My grocery store has a cheese counter where you can try a bite of a million different cheeses to see what floats your boat.

For this sandwich, I chose a sharp cheddar (the yellow cheese) and a smoked gouda (the white cheese).

Mozzerella is a great mild cheese choice.

Gruyere is a salty and sharp flavored cheese that melts like magic.

Goat cheese offers a stronger sharp flavor with a soft consistency.

Havarti is a good melter, and is mild in flavor.

Truly, you can’t go wrong. Experiment.

That is your assignment for the day.

Make a grilled cheese with at least two cheeses.

And try a new cheese.

You will love me forever for giving you this assignment.

Put a non-stick skillet over medium to medium-low heat (a good slow cook is key to allow the cheese to melt).

Put butter in the skillet.

Then pop in your sandwiches.

I like to cover the pan with a lid so that the steam allows the cheese to become sufficiently gooey.

That is a technical cooking term.

After the bottom of the bread gets lightly golden, give the sandwiches a flip. I would estimate 5-6 minutes per side. If your sandwich is getting too brown prior to the cheese melting, turn down your heat.

This is a good meal to practice making two things at once (soup and sandwich), because they are pretty easy to time up the completion. And if either the sandwich or the soup has to sit for a minute while the other item finishes cooking, they will still be dee-lish.

And here you have it:

Tomato, Shrimp, and Crab Bisque with Cheddar and Gouda Grilled Cheese

Let’s have a moment of honesty.

That meal blows the canned soup out of the water. True? True.

Enjoy my friends!!

Oh, and if you don’t dig seafood, this dish can obviously very easily become 100% vegetarian. Just leave out the shrimp and crab step.

Sigh.

I love a versatile recipe.

Hope you all are having the loveliest of Tuesdays.

XO,

Leah

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