This is one of my favorite cozy weather soups, inspired by a tomato and bacon bisque I used to love back in college. This version skips the heavy cream in favor of a generous dollop of crème fraîche. A few rashers of bacon and a smattering of Parmesan add a savory richness that, matched with the creamy tang from the crème fraîche, produces a soup that's as satisfying as a heavy cream version, but just a bit livelier. —Cynthia Chen McTernan
3 to 4
2 to 3
rashers (about 2 ounces) bacon
rendered bacon fat, from above
1 to 2
cloves garlic, minced
(1 large can) crushed tomatoes (or 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, if in season)
tomato paste (optional)
1 1/2 cups
chicken stock, plus more for thinning if needed
2 to 3 tablespoons
light brown sugar (or more, to taste)
First, prepare your bacon. You can either panfry it on the stove or bake it. I like baking for ease of preparation. To bake, place the bacon strips on a rimmed baking sheet (foil-lined, if you prefer) or in a cast iron skillet, then pop them in a cold oven (no need to preheat) and turn the oven to 400 degrees. Let bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. The crisper the better for the soup, as it purees smoother.
Drain and reserve the bacon fat from the bacon strips, set the strips aside. Heat one tablespoon of the bacon fat (or however much you'd like to sauté with) in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and minced garlic, and sauté until onions just begin to soften. Crumble two rashers of bacon into the pot and continue to cook for 20 to 30 seconds more.
Add the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, grated Parmesan, and brown sugar, and stir to combine. Turn the heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes.
Turn the heat off. Add the crème fraîche, then use an immersion blender or regular blender to puree the soup until uniform in texture. Season with salt, pepper, thyme, and oregano to taste, and adjust the soup with chicken stock if it's too thick for your liking. If the soup is tart, add a bit more brown sugar and another spoonful of crème fraîche. Serve hot, with grilled cheese or a hearty roll. If you have leftovers, the soup freezes well.