I’ve toyed with several openings to this post. But…I should probably begin at the beginning.
Once upon a time, I went to Dallas. This was nothing unusual. From the time I was 13, Dallas was one of my favorite traveling destinations. My sister and brother-in-law lived in the area for a few years, so my later adolescence and early adulthood were measured in trips to visit them, and go to some of my favorite places. I remember one time when my mom and my sister went to a rubber stamp convention (in Grapevine, I think), so my brother-in-law and I went around to various places. Basically, that day had one goal: to cram as many mall visits as we could into one day. I can’t remember if we visited 6…or 7…or was it 8, but I remember the fun I had that day.
Dallas was the city where I first tried Starbucks: in the Dallas Galleria (called Galleria Dallas) on the second floor overlooking the ice skaters below. My mom and I tried Caramel Macchiatos that day, and we were hooked. At that time, there were no Starbucks in northwest Louisiana (and wouldn’t be for six more years), so Starbucks remained a Dallas-visit guilty pleasure.
In the same mall, on the “rink level,” there used to be a restaurant that became synonymous with Dallas visits. (Yes, used to: Note to Galleria Dallas management that may or may not ever read this post: crawl to the owners of La Mad and beg for the return. Note to owners of La Mad: please return to the Galleria. You are much
needed missed.) Designed around the French country kitchen theme, La Madeleine (La Mad to those that are drooling hungrily) has several yummies on the menu. My original “poison” of choice was the cup of tomato-basil soup and a potato galette (and I have tried in vain to find a recipe for their potato galette, to no avail). There were the breads with the jams, particularly the orange marmalade. The bread at the time (I don’t know if the same is true today) was pretty much limitless and of many different sliced rustic varieties. I can’t remember when we asked the oh-so-necessary question about the possibility of purchasing the marmalade (The jars of tomato basil soup were available for purchase in the restaurant at the time), but I remember the looks of shock on my mom and sister’s face when we were told by an employee that the marmalade was Smucker’s brand.
The soup is very acidic; we thought for sure there was lemon in the soup. When, a few years later, I discovered a recipe online for the soup from one of the chefs at the restaurant and published in either the Fort Worth Star-Telegram or the Dallas Morning News, I received another La Mad-related shock: there was absolutely no lemon juice in it whatsoever. I began making the recipe and tweaking it slightly in my attempt to make it even more “La Mad-y.”
As the recipe attests, the soup is by no means low cal or low fat. A stick of butter and a cuppa cream go in each batch. This is one of those calorie splurges and worth every bite. (Note: I did taste it after pureeing it, and it was still yummy…just not La Mad yummy.) I remember once becoming very protective of the soup. We were in line behind two women who obviously were not fans of cream, butter, carbs, fats, sugar, or anything of the sort. I remember the high pitched shriek of horrific disdain when an employee of La Mad asked them if they wanted the tomato basil soup: “Ohmigah, that is sooooo fattening! No wayyy!”
I can understand eating in moderation, but I can’t understand (as I may have mentioned before) hating food. These individuals clearly hated food.
In another interesting note: after making the meal plan for this week, I actually had another (local) restaurant’s tomato-basil soup this week. One of my coworkers seated at the table had never tried it and asked me what I thought of it. I said it was good (and was about to gush about La Mad’s being better) when another coworker (who was also eating the soup) began gushing about the tomato basil soup that she was eating. Sorry, not to be a downer about local restaurants, but that soup cannot hold a candle to La Mad’s.
Basically, that soup made me only crave La Mad’s some more. I keep hoping that one will open locally, but so far, no such luck.
Dallas, by the way, was also the site of my honeymoon. In fact, Josh and I breakfasted at La Mad at least once on our honeymoon trip (at the old Galleria location).
So, Saturday night was Souper Saturday. Not intentionally, but we’ve had a bit of cooler weather lately, so it didn’t heat up the kitchen too much. I can’t remember the last time that we didn’t top at 100 degrees at the start of August. I’m lovin’ it!
Our basil plant is really hopping, which is the real reason that I wanted to make the soup. Seriously, Josh snipped off two or three sprigs this morning, and you cannot even notice that he picked any.
I had to call my mom for amounts because, years ago, I made a scrapbook cookbook that I gave to her that had (at the time) my most recent incarnation of the soup. That was my only copy of the recipe, and I couldn’t find the original source that I had found online years ago (It didn’t matter because I had tweaked it to the point that my recipe didn’t resemble the original…much).
Here’s what I did, today, that made the closest approximation to the soup that I have ever made:
With the tomato basil soup, we ate grilled cheese.
La Madeleine’s Tomato Basil Soup
4 (14-16 ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, liquid reserved (I used 2 cans that were 28 ounces each)
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
12-14 basil leaves (I used somewhere close to 20 or so leaves)
2 cans chicken broth (I used a 32-ounce carton)
1 stick of butter (Do not use margarine!)
1 cup whipping cream/heavy cream/heavy whipping cream
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
Drain the tomato juice into the soup pot. Using one hand, pierce and crush each tomato by hand into the soup pot. Discard any tomato peel remnants (more than likely there will be some). Note: This is a very messy process. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before crushing the tomatoes (and I always plan a bath for after to avoid orange nails). Wash the basil leaves carefully and then pull them off of the stem. Add them to the pot. Stir in the tomato paste. Pour in the broth. Bring the heat under the pot to medium-medium high. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly (because the tomato and the basil will stick to the bottom of the pot and scorch if you aren’t careful). When you stir it and the mixture continues to boil, lower the heat to 2-3 (medium-low) and let simmer 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, you have a few options, most of which are messy…but worth it. I used an immersion blender to mince the basil and puree the tomatoes. Some people choose to use a blender or a food processor. If you use the immersion blender while the mixture is still hot, be prepared for burning splatters. And let me just say, OUCH! If you don’t use an immersion blender, make sure you return the mixture to the soup pot.
If the mixture has cooled, bring the heat slowly back up under medium-low heat. The goal is to make the mixture warm enough to serve (and also warm enough for what happens next). Melt the butter using the heat of the tomato mixture, stirring to allow the mixture to emulsify. Pour in cream and stir. Taste. Add pepper to taste (I used close to a teaspoon, but I’ve seen recipes that call for as little as 1/4 teaspoon). Serve with whatever floats your dinghy, in Saturday’s case: grilled cheese.
My mom and I had an interesting conversation about grilled cheese when I called her for the recipe amounts yesterday. I’ve recently discovered the joy of using mayo as the fat in the grilled cheese (that which makes grilled cheese all brown and crispy). Mayo also is easier to spread than butter. My mom is a butter proponent and melts the butter to brush on her grilled cheese. I like my mom’s grilled cheese; don’t get me wrong. But I think I would call the mayo-method grilled cheese “croque monsieur grilled cheese.” The eggy compounds in the mayo lead to an almost French toast browning of the surface. La Mad serves croque monsieurs (or they did at some point), so I feel that this is a nod to the “French-ness” of the dinner.
What is your favorite soup and sandwich combo?
This recipe was totally Muffin Approved. He loved drinking the soup from a little condiment bowl as a sample and adored dunking his grilled cheese triangles in his mug o’ soup.
And (for all of you naysayers about the fat content of the soup) remember that cooked tomatoes contain more lycopene than any other food, with the exception of watermelon. This is very important for masculine health. So eat up on cooked tomato product, guys!
I should note that I did not let Muffin help with the tomato crushing. I can’t even do this without squirting tomato innards all over the place (the goosh factor), so I didn’t want to see what Muffin would do to the kitchen as a result.