Lately, I’ve been on a bacon spree. I’ve scored some darn good sales at several local grocery stores.
A lesson I learned long ago is to never be without bacon. After all, who doesn’t love the stuff?
If you have impromptu overnight guests, bacon is the answer if you need to prepare a quick breakfast or brunch. When you have bacon on hand, you can fry it up for sandwiches or crumble it into in salads. You can bacon-wrap shrimp and scallops and fry those up, too. Bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheeses are phenomenal.
After hitting all those sales, I ended up with more than six pounds of bacon in my freezer. I never freeze a whole package of bacon because I don’t want to have to cook the entire package when it’s thawed. Instead, I flash-freeze slices individually so that I take out only what I need. To freeze, roll up slices and then place on a plate and put it in the freezer. Once bacon is frozen, place in a freezer bag, label and date. Flash-freezing also ensures that the bacon slices don’t stick together.
My bacon-buying binge and cooler temperatures bring me to today’s recipes.
Country music singer-songwriter Martina McBride recently released “Martina’s Kitchen Mix: My Recipe Playlist for Real Life” (Oxmoor House, $30). It’s her second cookbook, and it features more than 150 of her favorite recipes.
Chapters run the gamut from breakfast and brunch dishes to main-course offerings, and the recipes call for mostly standard pantry ingredients. Nearly every recipe has some sort of tip from McBride and a suggestion for how to put a different twist on the dish or serve it in a unique way.
Perusing the pages, I came across a cream of tomato soup recipe and a suggestion from McBride that you pair it with grilled cheese sandwiches made with bacon. Recent weather already had me in the mood for soup, and, of course, you can never go wrong with tomato soup and grilled cheese.
Both of today’s recipes are easy and provide a hearty comfort meal in an hour. The sandwich features havarti cheese, thick-cut bacon, sourdough bread and a sweet and spicy spread. The soup, which uses canned tomatoes, isn’t creamy and thick but has a thinner bisquelike consistency.
Cream Of Tomato Soup
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 3/4 cup)
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- Sliced fresh basil, optional for garnish
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the onion, stirring often, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute longer, stirring occasionally. Stir in the crushed red pepper, if desired, and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook over medium for 35 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat and process the mixture in a blender or with a handheld blender (immersion blender) until smooth.
Stir in the cream, sugar and butter. (The soup may be made to this point, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for a couple days or frozen up to 1 month.) Cook over low until heated through, about 5 minutes. Garnish with sliced basil if desired.
Cook’s note: If you don’t have an immersion blender, a regular blender will work. Just don’t fill it more than halfway and be sure to cover the lid with a towel and hold it down tightly. Hot liquids expand, so if you don’t do these things, you might end up, at worst, burned, and at best … well, no, there really isn’t a best-case scenario here, just a big mess and a tomato soup-covered kitchen.
Makes 6-1/2 cups.
Blackberry-Bacon Grilled Cheese
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
- 6 slices thick-cut bacon
- 2 tablespoons blackberry jam
- 2-3 teaspoons adobo sauce, from canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 4 tablespoons butter, softened
- 8 slices sourdough bread
- 4 slices havarti cheese
- 1/4 cup pickled jalapeño slices
In a large skillet, cook the bacon until crisp, about 8 to 9 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels.
In a small bowl, stir together the blackberry jam and adobo sauce. Spread the butter on one side of each bread slice. Place 4 bread slices, buttered side down on wax paper. Top with the blackberry jam mixture, a cheese slice, bacon and pickled jalapeños. Top with the remaining bread slices, buttered sides up.
In a nonstick skillet or panini press, cook the sandwiches, working in batches if needed, about 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown and the cheese is melted.
Makes 4 servings.
Recipe from: "Martina’s Kitchen Mix: My Recipe Playlist for Real Life” by Martina McBride (Oxmoor House, $30)
Test Kitchen is Tribune News Service column by Susan Selasky, the food writer and Test Kitchen director for the Detroit Free Press, where she develops and tests recipes and answers readers’ questions about all things food. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanMariecooks