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Author Notes: I am going to break my rule of cooking only with seasonal ingredients. What could possibly be in season right now? The ground is hard as a rock and underneath the snow it is brown, brown, brown. I need a little color and spice. The spice here is from chipotle chiles and they are hot. For the uninitiated, chipotles are smoked jalapenos and you can buy them in a can “in adobo.” They are marinated in a tomato, garlic, and vinegar sauce. Just remember, a little goes a long way.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 pounds plum tomatoes
- Freshly ground black pepper
- pinches sugar
- 3 garlic cloves
- A few sprigs thyme
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon rice
- 1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
- 1 1/2 teaspoons seeded and finely chopped chipotle chile in adobo
- Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly oil the bottom of a large baking dish.
- Place the tomatoes in one layer in the baking dish with the cut side down (you may need to use more than one baking dish.) Sprinkle them with salt, pepper and sugar and drizzle them with a little olive oil. Slice off the tips of the garlic cloves but leave the root end intact. Do not peel them. Distribute the garlic and thyme around the tomatoes. Bake them on the upper shelf of the oven until they are soft and their skins are loose and wrinkled, 35 to 40 minutes. If the skins are slightly charred, so much the better for flavor.
- Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large (3 to 4-quart) pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook gently until they are tender, about 8 minutes.
- Remove the tomatoes from the oven and fish out the garlic cloves and the thyme. Discard the thyme and slip off the husks of the garlic cloves. Add the tomatoes and their juices to the pot with the garlic and rice. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.
- Puree the soup in a blender until very smooth, in batches if necessary. Rinse out the pot. For a silky smooth soup, pass it through a food mill or strainer to eliminate tiny bits of tomato skin and seeds. Add the blended soup back to the pot with enough water (about 1 cup, depending on juiciness of tomatoes) to thin it to the consistency of heavy cream. Reheat the soup and season with more salt and pepper if necessary.
- Stir the chopped chiles into the sour cream and float a spoonful on top of each bowl of soup.
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