Tomato soup with pancetta croutons
…or, Variation on a Theme
I know – I talked about making tomato soup only a few weeks ago. Get off my back! It’s been really rainy! And besides, if you had all these jars of home-canned heirloom tomatoes staring at you from your pantry shelves, you’d say to yourself, “man, I suddenly have a mean hanker for tomato soup. Just a mean old jones.”
And you’d select the reddest jar. The metallic shing of the ring with the flip of a wrist. The vacuum-pop of the seal with the bottle opener hook (on the corkscrew that lives on your cutting board).
You empty the jar’s contents into a small saucepan (small pots make you feel like a little girl again), add a splash of water to the jar and swirl it around to rinse the last bit of sauce in, and add it to the pot. You automatically add a few fat pinches of kosher salt – rote – then a few cracks of pepper, a few dashes of smoked paprika, and a tiny frozen cube of basil puree. It begins to bubble and sputter a bit, so you turn it down. Taste. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Taste.
In the adjacent burner, you warm up your favorite little pan. (Yes, it’s aluminum, but since you’re not cooking anything acidic in there you decide that you’ll just throw caution to the wind. Besides, it’s what real chefs use in real restaurant kitchens and that’s good enough for you.) You dice up some of the pancetta that your friend made, that you got in trade for some of your pickles and jams, that you secretly felt was probably the better end of the deal, but you didn’t say anything because free pancetta is free pancetta.
You add the lardons of pancetta to the hot pan. After the delicious, hazelnut-infused fat renders out a little, you add some bread cubes to the fat and stir things around with a wooden spoon until there’s Maillard-induced fond and gold on everything. You resist the urge to stand there and pop all of the crispy bits in your mouth.
You pour your lovingly-rendered soup into your roundest bowl, and sprinkle on the pancetta croutons (oh, okay, you pop another in your mouth because after all, you’re not made of stone). It is summer-sweet, tangy and soul-searchy. You spoon up all of that Solanaceous brew and then rake rapacious the last dribs from the bowl with loud scrapes, skrink skrink skrink.
You could do this every day, you think to yourself. And you count the ever-lengthening days until it is tomato season again.