Sometimes recipes come from friends, relatives, or a cookbook. But sometimes, they happen by accident. They all start with some kind of inspiration. Just as those final slicing tomatoes of summer inspired last week’s purists’ sandwiches, a few other varieties still ripening in our garden are behind this one.
I was roasting a chicken and decided to throw in several pounds of late-season tomatoes. I imagined a sauce. I also added fresh onions and French herbs to the pan. The ones known as herbes de Provence are a summer mixture, usually including thyme, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, fennel seeds, and lavender — big flavors that can withstand long cooking.
The result was a really good chicken, and, by mistake, the best tomato soup I’ve ever had. We could talk chicken roasting theory for days. I think a great cooked chicken is really about the quality of the chicken, not so much about how you roast it.
But this tomato soup. Yes, it is better than Campbell’s!
Accidental Tomato Soup
serves 4 to 6
This recipe is meant to be very loose and easy. Give it a try even if you don’t have all the right ingredients or the exact amounts. It’s great to have a hand-held stick blender for this soup (and many others — it’s a kitchen tool worth getting).
1 whole chicken, 3-4 lbs.
A nice olive oil
3 to 4 lbs. fresh tomatoes, rough chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 or 3 yellow onions, rough chopped
1 Tbsp. French herbs
½ cup heavy cream
Kosher salt or sea salt
Let the chicken come to room temperature while you heat the oven and prep the vegetables. I roast on convection at 375 degrees F, but if you don’t have convection, go to 400 degrees F.
Pat the chicken dry and season it by rubbing on some oil first, then plenty of salt and pepper and the French herbs. Generously coat the bottom of your roasting pan with olive oil and set the chicken in the pan.
Toss tomatoes, onions, and garlic into the roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add more French herbs, if desired. Turn the mixture a few times to get it coated evenly.
Roast on convection for about 25 minutes and turn the tomatoes and onions over, seasoning them again, then continue roasting for another 20 minutes, or until the chicken reaches 140 degrees — the internal temperature will continue to rise as the bird rests for a half hour after you take it out of the oven.
(When the chicken is done, the tomatoes should have a slight char on the edges. If not, after removing chicken you can either broil tomatoes to get a char, or convection roast them for an additional 5 minutes or so without the chicken.)
Remove the chicken, letting all its juices drip into the roasting pan.
Transfer the entire contents of the roasting pan (chicken drippings and all — that is your stock) to a pot and blend with a hand blender. Or, let contents cool slightly and blend in a regular blender.
Blend soup until smooth. If you are adding cream, do it now. It will tighten up the texture a bit and counter the tomatoes’ tartness.
Season to taste with more salt and pepper. The right balance of salt will bring out the depth of that fresh tomato flavor.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a few crunchy croutons. You’ll probably just want to put that chicken away for tomorrow.