I know, I know. It’s a new year. Everyone’s on a diet…or at least their resolutions involve TRYING to be on a diet. Hey, me too. I’m not DIETING, per say, but I am definitely cleaning up my overall eating habits. New Year’s is just a convenient way for people to hit “go” on their healthy stopwatches. I am certainly not immune. Not only have I upped my veggie intake, but I’ve exercised twice already this week. That’s two more times than I have in the past three months of postpartum living. I blame the baby, hah.
That being said, I firmly believe (and have stated so many other times on this blog) that everything is OK in moderation. I would never be able to stick to a carb- and cheese-free diet. I’d last all of 10 minutes. The reasons are numerous: (1) Tell me I can’t have something and it’s all I think about. Hence why I felt like a straight up alcoholic while pregnant. COULD NOT STOP THINKING ABOUT MARGARITAS. (2) Depriving oneself does nothing except create stress and guilt. I don’t think it’s a smart way to go. (3) The glory of carbs. (4) The glory of cheese. I mean, I don’t think I even need to elaborate on the last two.
So, yes, load up on green smoothies and healthy salads. Yes, invest in new running shoes. Revisit that gym membership. Make the most of the “clean slate” we all seem to grant ourselves around this time of year.
And then, as a reward, make yourself a huge batch of this boozy soup and freeze it in smaller portions for an occasional indulgence. We all need boozy tomato soup and grilled cheese sammies in our lives…every now and then.
Let me explain the awesomeness of this soup. A couple weekends ago, my sister and her boyfriend were in town and we decided to hit up a Philly brunch spot. Dan and I loaded up the stroller and diaper bag, crossed our fingers, and took Kieran on his first brunch experience. He cried for the first half hour. Which was more embarrassing than it normally would have been because we were in this super cool, obviously trendy bar/restaurant in which all the patrons (barring us) were under the age of 25. All the hipsters were hanging out there. We were clearly out of our element. I kept hearing the line from “Sweet Home Alabama” in my head: “You have a baby. In a BAR.” Hah. There were definitely some sideways glances as we pushed the stroller through the door (those glances came at us through thick, black-rimmed faux glasses, mind you).
It all worked out, though, once Kieran settled down and we ordered our food. Between baby cries, I hastily picked a bowl of the lager tomato soup with grilled cheese. It was totally a rushed decision (everything on the menu sounded amazing), but it was one of my better ones as of late. The soup was everything I love about tomato soup: creamy, tangy, rich, and plenty tomato-y…and this one was also packed with the flavor of BEER. I fell in love. It paired perfectly with the grilled cheese. Beer and cheese are meant to be together, after all.
So, today, I’m giving you my rendition. My version is based on my favorite tomato bisque of all time, with a few tweaks and additions here and there. Namely: swapping sherry out for lager beer. It adds such an incredible flavor element to this soup. Pair it with a tangy mustard grilled cheese for dunking into said soup, and you’ve pretty much got perfection.
Yup, I’m declaring that beer + cheese + mustard is perfection. I’m certainly not thinking outside the box on that one. Hey, if it ain’t broke…
I can’t wait to heat up a bowl of this soup after my workout tonight. It’s gonna be glorious.
For the Soup:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, pressed or finely minced
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 (12-oz) bottles of lager beer
- 1 cup of chicken stock
- 5 cups tomato juice
- 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (28-oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1½ cups heavy cream
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Grilled Cheese:
- Sourdough bread, sliced
- Dijon mustard
- Whole grain mustard
- Fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- Goat cheese, crumbled
- Salt and pepper
- Butter, for melting
For the Soup:
- Melt the butter in a large pot with the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic, herbs, and red pepper flakes and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or so.
- Add one of the bottles of beer to the pot and cook until mostly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients except the other bottle of beer and heavy cream.
- Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Stir in the second beer and heavy cream, warm through, and then serve immediately with the grilled cheese sandwiches. The idea is for the soup to still have a strong beer flavor, which is why the soup shouldn’t really be cooked after the second beer is added. If serving to children or someone who doesn’t like/drink beer, then omit the second beer completely. The soup will still taste amazing and have enough of the alcohol cooked off to be safe to serve.
For the Grilled Cheese:
- Spread the mustards (to your liking) on the sliced sourdough and top with a few thick slices of mozzarella and a couple crumbles of goat cheese. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the sandwiches and cook until the bread is golden on both sides and the cheese is gooey and melted. Serve immediately with the soup. Dunking is recommended!