Roasted Tomato and Smoked Bacon Bisque
from Chef Andrea Curto-Randazzo
Serves 4 to 6
5 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes
3 shallots, sliced, plus 2 shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced, plus 8 cloves garlic, peeled whole
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped applewood-smoked bacon
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 bay leaf
1 small bunch thyme, stems removed
3 ¼ cups vegetable stock
3 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups breadcrumbs (see Note)
1 cup grated aged manchego cheese (4 ounces) or cubed fresh mozzarella cheese
1 pint red and yellow teardrop tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
Small bunch basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
Juice of 2 lemons
4 to 6 whole basil leaves, or basil oil, for garnish
Directions: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Cut the tomatoes in half and gently remove all or most of the seeds. Toss them in a large bowl with the sliced shallots, minced garlic, and ¼ cup of the olive oil. Transfer the mixture to a baking sheet with the tomatoes skin side up, making sure all of the shallots, garlic, and olive oil are poured on top of the tomatoes. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the skins start to brown and blister. Set the pan aside to cool. Once cool, remove the tomato skins.
In a large soup pot over medium heat, cook the bacon until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour off the rendered fat. Add the butter, vegetable oil, onions, celery, carrots, minced shallots, and whole garlic cloves to the bacon in the pot. Season the mixture with salt and white pepper. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the roasted tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then add the heavy cream. Simmer for 30 minutes.
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Puree the soup in a blender in batches, then strain it through a fine-mesh sieve back into the soup pot. Season with salt and white pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, toss together the breadcrumbs, cheese, teardrop tomatoes, basil chiffonade, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, and salt and white pepper to taste. Spoon the hot soup into bowls, then top with the breadcrumb mixture and garnish with a basil leaf or a drizzle of basil oil and serve.
Note: You can make your own breadcrumbs by cutting a baguette into ¼-inch cubes, tossing the cubes with olive oil, seasoning with salt and black pepper, and toasting them on a baking sheet in a 375 F oven for about 15 minutes. Allow the croutons to cool, and then crumble them.