Recipe for Irish blue cheese and tomato soup
My friend Lucia grew up on a farm in Ireland, where her parents still live, and on her last visit home she picked up a small, locally produced soup cookbook for me. The Irish know plenty about soup; it's a mainstay of their diet in blustery cold winters, a pub favorite, and an economical and nutritious way to use what's at hand. The recipes in this book feature the best of Ireland's produce (potatoes), fish (salmon) and cheese. This recipe for blue cheese and tomato soup calls for Cashel Blue, an Irish farmhouse cheese, and while I probably could have tracked it down by driving all over the state of Rhode Island, I opted for our own wonderful Great Hill Blue, made in Massachusetts. The soup glides down your throat, soft and creamy and satisfying. Add a hunk of brown bread and a pint of ale, with some sliced apples for dessert.
Irish blue cheese and tomato soup
Adapted from Best of Irish Soups by Eileen O'Driscoll, this recipe, originally published as Rock of Cashel Soup, serves 6.
8 large ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half, seeds removed
6 oz bacon
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 large stalk of celery, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups chicken stock, heated
10 oz mild blue cheese
2/3 cup organic half-and-half (or cream)
Fresh black pepper and chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Rub a bit of olive oil on your hands, and coat each of the tomato halves. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, and chop the tomatoes roughly in a food processor or by hand.
In the bottom of your soup pot, cook the bacon over low heat until it's as crisp as you like it. Remove the bacon onto a plate covered with paper towel, and set aside.
Over low heat, add the butter into the pot, along with the onion, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Stir in the flour, and mix well until it's completely incorporated with the butter in the pot. Pour in the heated chicken stock, and stir well until the stock thickens slightly.
Crumble the cheese into the pot, and add the chopped tomatoes. Bring the soup to a boil, stirring to help melt the cheese. Remove the pot from heat, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. (Or, let the soup cool slightly, and process in batches in a blender or food processor; then, return the soup to the pot.)
Return the pot to the stove, and over low heat stir in the half-and-half. Cook for one minute, until the soup is hot but not yet at the simmer.
Roughly chop the bacon. Serve the soup in individual bowls, topped with bacon. Sprinkle with black pepper and chopped parsley, if you wish.