Sorry for the deceptive title, but I wanted you to read this.
I have always adored tomato soup of all varieties. It’s like a warm hug from a favorite aunt, loving and unpretentious. The best tomato soup I ever had was the tomato-cheddar at Henry David’s Restaurant in Keene, NH. Sadly, Henry David’s no longer exists, but twenty-plus years ago, it was THE restaurant to go to in Keene, NH. Back in college, I would trek to Henry David’s in my LL Bean Maine hunting boots with my roommates and enjoy a nice hot cup of tomato-cheddar. Maybe it was the snow and slush that covered Keene from November until March, maybe it was the slim pickings of our dining hall, maybe it was the fact I was always starving back then, but no soup has ever tasted so satisfying to me before or since. I have tried numerous times using various recipes to find a tomato-cheddar that I like as much as Henry David’s, but I have never been successful. Perhaps the missing secret ingredient is my youth? If, by chance, you happen to have a great (not merely good, GREAT) tomato-cheddar soup recipe, I sincerely hope you will share it with me.
Continuing our tour of Keene, NH, we come to a humble little diner that has been in existence since 1961 and has the honor of being the spot of the first, last and only waitressing job I’ve ever held for the hardest two months of my life. If you are a political show junkie as I am, you may already be familiar with Lindy’s Diner in Keene, NH. If you plan on winning the NH primary, I highly suggest you visit Lindy’s. I have the distinction of being the worst waitress who ever served in their long and proud history, as well as the one who cried the most in front of customers and who received the most pennies and nickels for tips. Since this was 1988 and not 1908, a seventeen cent tip is every bit the insult you think it is.
Despite my traumatizing but short-lived diner waitress career, I still love diners to this day. Like tomato soup, diner food is always such a comfort to me. I was so excited to come across this recipe in Diner Classics chapter of Jane and Michael Stern’s Square Meals for Cream of Tomato Soup: a little bit wholesome, a little bit trashy, a whole lot of perfect.
I used tomatoes I had frozen at the end of the summer from my garden. Since they are Romas and a bit smaller, I used eight instead of six.
I love that there are onions AND scallions AND garlic in this soup. Probably not suitable for a first date, but extra flavorful nonetheless.
The result is a richly layered soup that is not too heavy. I know this is a classic diner offering, but I would serve it to special guests with pride. Thank you, Sterns!
Cream of Tomato Soup, from Square Meals by Jane and Michael Stern
1 onion, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 quart chicken broth
6 fresh and large ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped course
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 scallions, chopped fine
4 white peppercorns, whole
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 cup light cream
In a deep pot, saute onion and carrot in butter until onion turns slightly brown. Add flour; mix well. Slowly add broth, tomatoes, garlic, scallions, peppercorns, salt and sugar. Cover and cook over low heat 1 1/2 hours.
Blend in blender or food processor and add cream. Garnish with a sprinkle of basil, oregano, or toasted croutons. Serves 4 to 6.