Brown Butter Tomato Soup

In the event you were wondering, it is most definitely soup season.

It's like I don't know how to exist without a stockpile of frozen homemade soups in my freezer. Currently I'm rocking some arugula lentil soup, chorizo lentil soup and now this little gem. A brown butter tomato soup.

Last winter I made a fabulous tomato goat cheese soup. That soup was a bit savory in a way because of the addition of goat cheese and well the use of cream. It was amazing. This tomato soup is a bit different. It feels a little more versatile. Perhaps more of a soup for a crowd? I'm not sure who makes tomato soup for a party but this might be the one for that.

When I first stumbled on this recipe, I saw that it called for marjoram. If you are like me at all, you might not have heard of marjoram either. But don't get overwhelmed because according to the gents at Polcari's where I buy my spices (and Wikipedia), marjoram is a sibling spice to oregano. So, feel free to just use oregano. BTW, this entire packet of marjoram shown cost me ...... 75 CENTS. Love the North End, love bulk spices.
While I'm a fan of soup for sure, one of the best parts is that you get to complete it with a generous pile of croutons or shaved cheese or whatever. For this little gem, I couldn't decide what I wanted. I had picked up a fresh loaf of bread from Bricco Panneteria. So croutons were a guarantee for sure.... 

But in the effort to bring some element of experimentation to this simple soup ... I attempted to make those Parmesan crisps that you get in restaurants. And, boy are they easy. I'd say they required patience but they don't really because the process to make them is so fast you shouldn't even look away for a second. I should have taken a video.

Also as a little bit of a flashback, the last time I made tomato soup was before I had an immersion blender. And, I ended up with tomato soup splattered all over my kitchen (including in my candy jar) ... look how far I've come. No spills and made on a weeknight.

Here's how it goes.

(Step 1) Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saucepan. Toss in the onion and garlic. Cook / Stire / Etc until translucent. The same ole same ole soup starter.
(Step 2) Add the tomatoes with the juice, water, milk, salt, pepper, red pepper, marjoram, and sugar. I'm a pretty strict believer in using what you have and I had milk, not cream. Normal soup would use cream. I'm sure there was a difference but let's just call this one healthier and move on. 
(Step 3) Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to purée until completely smooth. 
(Step 4) Return the soup to low heat and simmer 20 more minutes.

(Step 5) Now it's time to make the brown butter... which will be great for your croutons ... and to be mixed inside the soup. Yep, that's right. Heat a pan over medium heat. Add the 3 tablespoons remaining butter. As it begins to melt, start swirling the pan frequently and watching the butter carefully. You will notice the butter will get foamy, and then the milk solids will begin to brown. Once that starts, remove skillet from heat. Smell the butter; it should have a nutty aroma, and be caramel in color. Stir about 2/3 of the brown butter into the soup. Set the rest aside.

(Step 5B) I like my soup a bit thick. Thin soup seems weak to me. So, at this point... go ahead and add any water or stock you might like in your soup to get to the desired consistency. I'm against adding just water so I'll prefer to add chicken stock. Use your judgement. You are a grown-up (theoretically).

(Step 6) Now make your soup accessories! Croutons? Normal sauce here guys. Nothing complicated. Brown some butter in your skillet. Cut your bread into reasonable slices and  toss it in. Toss the croutons around in the skillet until they are appropriately toasted. Now you have brown butter croutons. 

(Step 7) Parmesan crisps come together really quick so be a slacker and walk away from the stove. Heat your non-stick skillet to a medium heat (not medium high, medium... pay attention). Take a small pile like 3 tablespoons? of shredded cheese and place it in a pile on the skillet. Watch the cheese melt down like an ice cream scoop. Using a spatula remove the crisp and put it on a cutting board, plate, etc to cool and crisp up.

Shopping List
4 T unsalted butter, divided
2 T olive oil, separated
1 medium onion, sliced and diced
4 clv garlic, peeled & lightly smashed
2 (28 oz) cans san marzano tomatoes (I used whole, but it doesn't really matter since you'll blend them)
1 c water (optional?)
1 c milk / cream
2 t kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/4 t freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 t crushed red pepper
1/4 t dried marjoram
1 T sugar

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