It’s hard to get excited about a tomato in the dead of winter. Actual tomato season is still months away and most of what you find in grocery stores right now are light in flavor and mealy in texture. Not exactly the stuff of tomato dreams. But while it may not be the ideal time for something like my heirloom tomato pizza, it is prime time for this Confit Tomato Soup. When you lazily cook anything in a vat of olive oil it’s going to be good. The confit process concentrates the flavor of the tomatoes and brings out their sweetness while reducing their acidity. In other words, the confit method transforms lackluster winter tomatoes into flavor powerhouses.
I rarely make tomato soup. It’s not because it’s difficult, in fact, it’s one of the easier soups to pull off. No, I’m reticent to make this staple soup because I have a borderline unhealthy attachment to a particular canned brand. I know you know. As a kid growing up in the 90s condensed tomato soup whisked with milk and paired with a gooey grilled cheese was an iconic meal. And as I’ve gotten older my love for it has not waned.
Sure, the cheese in my grilled cheese has gotten sharper and the bread heartier but the soup has not changed. I still unabashedly love the tinned version. So much so that I can’t stand for even the slightest variation. I once came home with the “healthy request” version by accident and it totally ruined my night. So for me, making tomato soup can feel like setting myself up for failure.
But having said all that, I have wandered into these treacherous waters before. You may remember this Thai-inspired number. But that version differed enough from the tomato soup of my youth that my brain didn’t clock it as the same thing. Today’s Confit Tomato Soup is a different matter entirely. This is a straight forward full-bodied tomato soup. So how did it compare to the beloved pantry relic? No contest. This soup totally blows the tinned version out of the water. Sure, my nostalgia will never allow me to give up the red can entirely, but this Confit Tomato Soup is almost a different species.
Let’s start by making the confit. Now, I will warn you it takes a good 2 hours to make tomato confit. Two inactive hours on your part, but still this isn’t a 30-minute-or-less meal, so plan accordingly. I think of this as a wonderful Sunday cook/aromatherapy session. The smell of this confit cooking should be bottled and sold it is that good.
The first thing you’re going to do is some light chopping and I do mean “light”. The chopping required for this recipe is halving four shallots and lobbing the top of a head of garlic off. So if you hate chopping, this is the recipe for you. Once everything is prepped, pour a pound and a half of cherry tomatoes into a 9×13 casserole dish. Add the shallots and garlic to the dish and add two bay leaves and five sprigs of rosemary. Now, you’re going to pour in 3 cups of olive oil. I know it’s a lot of oil but you want everything to be pretty much covered with oil. Finish with a sprinkling of salt.
Place the casserole dish in a 250°F oven for 2 hours and then let it cool until lukewarm. From here, scoop the tomatoes, garlic, and shallots out of the oil using a spider or a slotted spoon. Don’t worry too much about taking some of the oil with the tomatoes, it will just result in a more unctuous soup. Strain the remaining oil and store it in a jar. We will use a little of it later on. This is essentially tomato rosemary-flavored oil. So use it with abandon in salad dressings, sauces, or as a nice finishing oil. The gourmet oils are the bonus gift of the confit process.
Now, let’s build the soup. Place the tomatoes, shallots, garlic, and any extra oil you picked up in a blender or food processor. Blitz everything until very smooth. Briefly saute some tomato paste in a heavy bottom pot before adding the puree. The paste will further emphasize and deepen the tomato flavor. Once the puree is in there, stir in some vegetable stock. You’ll use anywhere from a cup and a half to a full two cups. It really depends on how thin or thick you would like your soup to be.
Once the stock is in, all that’s left is a few final flavor flourishes. Stir in two tablespoons of Dijon mustard for an extra dose of umami and a little honey for a hint of sweetness. The honey is there for balance more than anything, you won’t really taste it. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with cream, a little of the tomato-rosemary-oil, and microgreens.
Now, there is a little bonus recipe here and it is optional. Heat a little of the tomato rosemary oil in a skillet. When the oil is shimmering, add two slices of bread. Fry the bread until golden. I swear this is the best toast you’ll ever eat. And if you’re keen to make this soup alongside a grilled cheese sandwich, ditch the butter and fry your sandwich in the tomato rosemary oil. You’ll thank me later.
And that’s everything you need to know about this Confit Tomato Soup. This soup has such a depth of flavor that it will stay with you. I’m already planning my next rendezvous with it. And plus, you get an amazing infused oil out of the deal. Confit really does spoil us.
Confit Tomato Soup
- 1 blender or food processor
- 1 9×13 casserole dish
- 1 heavy bottom pot
- 1 skillet optional
- 680g (1 ½ lb) cherry tomatoes
- 4 shallots halved and peeled
- 1 head garlic top removed
- 2 bay leaves
- 5-6 sprigs rosemary
- 1 tbsp salt
- 3 cups olive oil
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1½-2 cups vegetable stock ***
- 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp honey
- 4 slices bread I used multigrain
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup radish greens
- Preheat the oven to 250°F.
- Place the cherry tomatoes, shallots, garlic, bay leaves, and rosemary in a 9×13" casserole dish. Pour in the olive oil and sprinkle everything with the salt.680g (1 ½ lb) cherry tomatoes, 4 shallots, 1 head garlic, 2 bay leaves, 5-6 sprigs rosemary, 1 tbsp salt, 3 cups olive oil
- Place the casserole dish in the oven and roast for 2 hours. Take the tomato confit out of the oven and let cool for 30 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs.
- When the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves out of the head into a bowl. Using a slotted spoon, fish the tomatoes and shallots out of the oil and add them to the bowl with the garlic. Set aside.
- Pour the remaining oil through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Transfer to a jar and set aside. ****
- Place the tomatoes, shallots, and garlic in a blender and blitz until very smooth. Set the puree aside.
- Briefly sauté the tomato paste in a heavy bottom pot. Pour in the tomato puree and the vegetable stock. Bring everything up to a boil before reducing it to a simmer. Stir in the mustard and honey. Taste and season with additional salt accordingly. Keep warm until ready to serve.2 tbsp tomato paste, 1½-2 cups vegetable stock ***, 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp honey
- Pour a little of the strained oil into a large skillet and place over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, fry the slices of bread in the oil until golden, adding more oil when the skillet looks a little dry.4 slices bread
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of cream and tomato-infused oil. Sprinkle with the microgreens and serve immediately with a side of fried toast.¼ cup heavy cream, ¼ cup radish greens