You may know that carrot, celery and onion make a great base for all kinds of soup and sauces. Did you know the mixture has a specific name? It’s called Mirepoix (meer-pwah) after the French Duke of Mirepoix. Common standard then in French cooking for the moniker to come from the aristocratic patron; the Duke was no chef, it was his (forgotten) cook who is credited with the mixture.
I love roasted tomatoes and the caramelized bite that roasting gives, but until recently I had no love for the fennel bulb and that harsh, licorice-like taste. My willingness to play with it some more I owe entirely to the 2013 Soupfest, which had a participating restaurant that featured a lovely tomato-bacon-fennel soup. I wish I could remember who it was. Well regardless, almost a year later, I still remember the taste of the soup, and I knew I was going to try to replicate it one day.
Roasting fennel gives it a kick in the pants that makes the taste of it more nutty and complex, muting that intense anise flavour. If you didn’t know, roasting makes everything more awesome. A few drops of liquid smoke, a little bacon and a garnish of Asiago give you a robust, smoky tomato soup that goes great with a grilled cheese for a rustic winter lunch.
Roasted Tomato Bacon Fennel Soup
|2 hours, 45 minutes
|Pre-preparable, Serve Hot
- 1/2 sweet yellow onion (quartered)
- 2 large carrots (or 3-4 smaller)
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 4 slices bacon (cooked to 75% doneness)
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- liquid hickory smoke
- fresh cracked pepper (to taste)
- 3lb fresh tomatoes (cored and halved)
- 1 fennel bulb (small, about 1 lb, quartered and cored)
- 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika
- asiago cheese (garnish)
The tomatoes may take a little while longer to roast than the vegetables, just remove the veggies early and let the tomatoes continue to roast. If you do not like the texture that leaving the skin and seed pulp in the blended mixture gives, you can make a smoother soup by filtering the fibrous materials out through cheesecloth.
A little liquid smoke goes a long way, so be conservative at the start with a few drops, especially if your bacon is already flavoured with smoke.
|Cut your onion, celery, carrots in two parts. Toss the vegetables with the cored, quartered fennel in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and spread on a baking sheet lined with parchment, or in a large, easy-to-scrub Pyrex casserole.
|Toss the halved, cored tomatoes in another 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, and similarly arrange cut side up in a Pyrex dish or on a lined baking sheet.
|Roast the tomatoes and vegetables at 300F for approximately 2 hours, or until the vegetables begin to brown slightly and the tomatoes begin to caramelize and shrivel.
|Add the tomatoes, vegetables, bacon, and garlic to a large pot with the 6 cups of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the carrots are well-softened.
|Purée the vegetables with an immersion blender in the pot, or cool slightly and purée in a regular blender in batches. Filter the purée through cheesecloth if you want a smoother soup.
|Bring up to a simmer, and add thyme, paprika, liquid smoke (beginning with a few drops), salt and pepper to taste.
|Serve with crumbled Asiago cheese or a grilled cheese croûton.