Wednesday, December 05, 2007

best comfort food ever

I have a confession to make. I don't like butternut squash. I'm sorry; I've tried. I just don't. I don't like sweet potatoes with brown sugar and marshmallows, I don't like honey-glazed ham, and I don't like vegetable soup that tastes like dessert (and looks like baby food, but that's neither here nor there). I made some last week as a trial run for Christmas dinner, and it was beautiful- a soft, autumnal color with onion, a slip of apple, and a smattering of cumin, coriander, and chili powder- hoping in vain that the savory spicing would surprise me into loving the butternut squash- and topped with homemade garlic & parsley croƻtons. It was a huge hit- everyone loved it and everyone had seconds. Everyone except me. It's just.... blah. No thank you. I am closing the book on my relationship with butternut squash.

I'll probably still make it for Christmas because it's so festive and well-liked (and will be served in a hollowed-out acorn squash, fancy!), but not to be daunted by my self-imposed failure, I decided to try my hand at a tomato soup the next day. Now there was a winner!! Plus, there's pretty much no meal I would rather have on a dreary winter day than a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich (fried in butter, natch).

Tomato-Tarragon Soup

1 large onion, or 2 small ones- yellow or white, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 yukon potato, peeled and chopped
2 hefty 28-oz. cans of fire-roasted tomatoes
generous splash of a crisp white wine
1 carton of vegetable broth (or chicken, if you're not vegetarian)
a generous amount of dried tarragon (a big palm full or a couple of tablespoons, you could use basil here for a more classic flavor)
salt and pepper

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat a couple of swirls of olive oil to medium high heat. Chop and drop your onions and carrots and sautee past translucent- until they start browning. Take your time- this flavor will really add to your soup. Add a splash of wine to deglaze the pot, and make sure you scrape up any bits that cooked to the bottom. Then add tomatoes (undrained), the potato, the spices, and about 3 C of broth. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer until the potatoes are very soft (about 25-35 minutes).

Once the vegetables are all soft, blend with an immersion blender (alternatively, let cool and blend in your blender or food processor, then return to pot). Re-season to taste and serve hot with your grilled cheese (mine was a combination of smoke white cheddar and gruyere) and dill pickles.

This makes about 6 servings, and trust me, it's better the next day, so feel free to make it ahead of time and re-heat.

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