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Its Friday So It Must Be Soup! Creamy Tomato Fennel Soup

I had big plans to make a pozole this week but life and work got in the way and there was not going to be time to make anything that labour intensive. With pozole put on the back burner, I found that I couldn't stop thinking about the cream of tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons that Dianne made last week for no reEats. Unfortuntately, she wasn't happy with the recipe she used so I knew I would make up my own but I still love the idea of a creamy tomato soup with those grilled cheese croutons. I also wanted to try out my evaporated milk in place of creme again in a soup so I could keep the creamy texture without adding tons of unwanted fat. I have to tell you, I have not been disappointed with the evaporated milk yet and I have tried it in soups and sauces for months now. It lightens the soup up so that I can indulge more freely in the grilled cheese croutons. Dianne is right about those things - they are truly the star of the show! I used a sharp cheddar with flax seed bread because The Kid likes his grilled cheese straight up but I think I am going to try making a grilled cheese with some blue cheese in there for my own soup next time.

Creamy Tomato Fennel Soup

1 onion, finely chopped
1 cup finely chopped fennel
1 to 2 cloves garlic chopped
glug olive oil
2 thin slices of pancetta chopped
1 tsp PC Umami #5 
4 cups tomato puree
1 cup chicken stock
evaporated milk
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

grilled cheese croutons:
(allow 1/2 sandwich per bowl)
bread of your choice
cheese of your choice

Preheat a frying pan over med heat.
Butter the bread on the outside and flip it so that the buttered side is down. Add your cheese to the unbuttered side of the bottom slice and top with the second slice, buttered side up.
Put the sandwich into the frying pan and cook until dark and toasty on the bottom. Flip it, flatten it with a spatula and continue to cook until the second side is all toasty brown and the cheese is melted.
Let it cool for a minute on a cutting board before you cut it into cubes to make your croutons.

Heat a heavy saucepan over med heat and add a glug of olive oil - about 2-3 tbls I would think. Add the onion and sweat for a couple of minutes before throwing in the pancetta and the fennel and sauté for about 10 minutes until all the veggies are soft and starting to take on a bit of colour. Add the Umami #5 paste and stir that around for another 30 or 40 seconds before you add the tomato and the stock and let that simmer for about 20 minutes. If you want it super smooth you can either take it off the heat and pour it into a blender to puree or use an immersion blender. After it's nice and smooth, stir in 3/4 cup of evaporated milk and taste and adjust your salt. Let it sit with the lid on, off the heat while you make your grilled cheese croutons.
Ladle into a bowl, add lots of freshly ground black pepper and your grilled cheese croutons.

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