A long, long time ago, I lived in Texas. One of the many benefits of living in Texas is that you have easy access to the La Madeleine restaurant chain. A chain of restaurants might seem like a lame thing to miss, but it is much less lame if you’ve actually eaten at a La Madeleine restaurant. It’s like upscale French fast food (which translates to super classy and full of pastries and good things).
When I was a kid, La Madeleine was one of the few faster food options my parents actually enjoyed, so they took us there semi-regularly. Semi-regularly translates to about twice a year. Mom cooked for us almost every single day, which I now know is quite a feat.
When we did go to La Madeleine, I struggled with the menu. How many kids get excited about quiche and rotisserie chickens? I obviously hadn’t seen the culinary light. The thing I did love at La Madeleine (other than the eclairs and giant trifle containers full of beautiful strawberries) was the Tomato Basil Soup. It was epically delicious.
Fast forward to 2010, when I invited Scott over to my house to celebrate his birthday a few days late (or early?). I made La Madeleine’s tomato soup for the first time with something along the lines of cheesy bread. I believe it’s as close as I could come to a gourmet meal in the 20 minutes between work and dinner. The only reason that menu stuck in my mind is that Scott told me later that he doesn’t like tomato soup. But did he love my tomato basil rendition? Yes! It was a good sign for our eating future.
All of that to say that this soup can convert kids and people who don’t like tomato soup. It’s serious stuff. It also has serious heavy cream and butter. Minor detail. It’s easy to make, it’s one of my all-time favorite soups, and you should try it. It takes 35-40 minutes to make if you simmer for the recommended time, but only 5-10 of that is active cooking time. You can make it in 20 minutes if there’s a cute guy you’re trying to impress or if you’re just really hungry.
La Madeleine (Copycat) Tomato Basil Soup*
- 4 cups canned whole tomatoes, crushed
- 4 cups tomato juice (you can use some chicken stock in this mixture instead of all 4 cups tomato juice, but I prefer it with all tomato juice)
- 15-18 fresh, washed basil leaves (Scott says the more the merrier on this one)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 stick (1/4 lb.) sweet, unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- Combine tomatoes and juice in a saucepan. Simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.
- Near the end of that simmer time, chop your basil leaves very finely and add them to the soup mixture.
- Add cream and butter, then stir until both are incorporated.
- Serve with basil garnish and your favorite warm bread. Or warm cheesy bread if you can bring yourself to add some more dairy to the mix.
*Recipe adapted from The Houston Press copycat recipe. Mine is simpler and gets fewer contraptions dirty. I like it better.