There’s an old duet made popular by Ray Charles and Betty Carter entitled “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” that plays ubiquitously this time of year in all the shops and grocery stores. You’ve probably heard it dozens of times. But have you ever really listened to it? The concept of the song revolves around a lady attempting to leave a gentleman’s home on a cold, snowy night. Betty and Ray trade lines the whole song, with Betty asking to leave his home, and Ray giving all the slick reasons she should stay. At one point, Betty even quips, “Say, what’s in this drink?” And slick Ray smugly brushes it off in his sung response.
Word? This is a classic Christmas love ballad? The whole thing is a bit, daresay I — “problematic.”
But anyway, it’s cold outside. Which means it’s time for soup. It’s definitely better to make soup a day ahead, if you can, since it always tastes better the longer it’s been cooking. I made some alterations to the simple tried-and-true recipe, but hey, sometimes it’s necessary to update an old classic.
one large onion, quartered
four small shallots, quartered
six cloves garlic
8-10 medium tomatoes, halved
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes
2 small carrots
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme
four stems fresh rosemary
tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup celery leaves, chopped
1/2 stick butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
salt and pepper to taste
freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve
immersion blender or traditional blender/food processor
Preheat the oven to 450 and line a large baking pan with parchment paper. (Make sure the baking pan has an outer lip, because you’ll have some running juices!) Halve the tomatoes and place them on the pan, cut side up. Add the onions, shallots, garlic, herbs, and carrots to the baking pan and drizzle everything with olive oil. Throw it in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the onions begin to brown and the tomatoes give off their juices.
After the aromatics finish sizzling, sauté the celery leaves in the butter in a large stockpot for about 4 minutes, and then throw everything from the baking pan in, juices, herbs, and all. Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer on medium high heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Then add the can of tomatoes and reduce heat to medium low. Let this whole mixture cook, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes.
You can wait until the next day if you’ve done this a day in advance (I accidentally left my pot on super low heat when I went to bed and woke up at 3AM to turn it off, but do you and be safe out there!) Pick out any large, woody herb stems and bring the tomato mixture back up to warm. Use an immersion blender, (or transfer the liquid to a blender) and puree it until thick and velvety. Salt and pepper to taste. Finally, add 1 cup of water and the buttermilk to the soup and stir. Cook on low for an additional 10 minutes. Then ladle and serve, topped with the grated parmesan.
cheddar cheese slices
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup smoked whitefish salad
1/4 green apple, thinly sliced (a mandolin slicer works wonderfully at making thin, even slices for this)
1 tbsp butter
Am I for real about to tell you how to make a sandwich? This can’t be life. So, basically, grilled cheese sandwich procedure as usual. Use a cast iron skillet if you can. Get it hot on medium-low heat and prep your sandwiches. The biggest difference here is that you mix your mayo, whitefish salad, smoked paprika and parmesan and thinly spread it on the outside of your sandwich to get a smoky, crispy crust. Use two slices of cheese and place about 4 thin slices of apple between the slices. Butter the skillet and cook the sandwich on each side for about 2-3 minutes. Let that sucker rest before you cut it, so the cheese gets a chance to set and congeal a bit. Enjoy.