Monday, January 14, 2013

Celebrating National Soup Month: Cream of Sun Dried Tomato Soup with Bacon and Fried Onions

I understand that January is National Soup Month.  I'm kind of proud of myself for knowing this because I usually miss these commemorative days for some reason.  I guess there must be some sort of app I can find so National Glazed Doughnut Day no longer goes unnoticed, but I'll be darned if I can find it.

Well never mind, the important thing is that I didn't miss soup's special month.  I love that I am not alone in thinking that soup is so important that just one day won't do.  Soup after all helps to heal us when we are sick, warms us when we are chilled to the bone, and in the case of vichyssoise and gazpacho, sustains and cools us on a hot summer day.

For January's soup celebration, I wanted to make something that was just a little bit special, but still was approachable and affordable for a weeknight meal.  Since the weather is dreadfully cold most everywhere during this month, I thought it needed to be hearty as well.  After mixing and chopping for a couple of days I finally came up with a soup that I think fits the bill.   Creamy and wholesome, flavorful and satisfying, this is definitely a celebration soup, even if you are celebrating just a regular Tuesday night.

Cream of Sun Dried Tomato Soup with Bacon and Fried Onions

1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large carrot, cut in half lengthwise and very thinly sliced across
1/2 medium size onion, thinly sliced across and chopped
1 large stalk celery, very thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large bay leaf
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
5 cups chicken stock
4 slices bacon
1/2 medium size onion, very thinly sliced
3 tablespoons flour
1/3 cup water
3 slightly heaping tablespoons good quality sun dried tomato pesto (I used my favorite from Christopher Ranch)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese, plus a couple of tablespoons more for garnish

Melt butter together with the vegetable oil in a large saucepan or small stock pot set over medium high heat.  When butter starts to sizzle add the carrot, onion and celery.  Saut√© until the vegetables are soft, approximately 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and bay leaf and continue cooking for one minute longer, stirring constantly.  Add the sugar and white pepper; stir well to combine.  Add the chicken stock, stir well, cover and lower the heat to low.  Cook for approximately 15 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft.

While the soup is cooking, place bacon in a medium size frying pan over medium high heat.  Fry until the bacon is crispy.  While reserving the bacon drippings in the frying pan, transfer the bacon to a paper towel to drain; set aside.

Add the thinly sliced onion to the bacon drippings and fry until they are brown and crispy, approximately, 5 minutes; transfer to a paper towel to drain and set aside until ready to use.

Remove the vegetable and stock mixture from the heat.  Remove the bay leaf.  Puree vegetables with an immersion blender, or if using a counter top blender, allow mixture to cool to warm before carefully pureeing and returning to the pot and heating over a low heat.

In a small bowl or cup, gradually stir the flour and water together to form a paste.  To the paste add 1/2 cup or so of the hot liquid from the stock pot to temper it a bit.  While stirring the soup in the stock pot continuously, add the flour mixture.  Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil while continuing to stir.  Cook and stir for one minute before adding the pesto and cream.  Continue to heat until the mixture just begins to return to the boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in a tablespoon of the Parmesan.

Divide soup evenly among 4 - 6 soup bowls.  Spoon fried onions and bacon on top and garnish with some of the Parmesan cheese, or if you want to add a special touch swirl a little lightly whipped unsweetened cream on top.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4 - 6
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