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by Stefan Gates
I enjoy a Bloody Mary most when it's served on the bar semiprepared and accompanied by its little team of helpers: a bottle of Tabasco sauce, another of Worcestershire sauce, a little shaker of celery salt, and a celery-stalk stirrer. Such old-fashioned serving is rare these days, which is a shame, since I like to have control over my flavors, and offering guests a choice would seem like the decent thing to do when you consider that in the chile-heat department, one man's tongue-tickler is another man's Ring of Fire.
This rich and fiery soup is on a different planet than regular tomato soups, and it allows your friends to decide how hot they want it by providing the base soup but leaving the key flavoring ingredients on the table for them to add at will. If you wish, you can substitute the roasted tomatoes with cans of chopped plum tomatoes heated up with a tablespoon of sugar and perhaps some extra tomato paste, but the recipe below gives a wonderfully intense flavor.
• 4½ lb ripe, full-flavored tomatoes
• 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 2 teaspoons superfine sugar
• salt and pepper
• 1 tablespoon sherry (or balsamic) vinegar
• 2 cups vegetable stock, warmed
• 6 celery stalks
• horseradish sauce
• 6 tablespoons vodka, (in individual shot glasses, if you prefer)
• a small carafe of dry sherry
• Tabasco sauce
• Worcestershire sauce
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 lemon, cut into 6 segments
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Halve the tomatoes and cut out the cores, then place them in a roasting pan with the olive oil, sugar, and salt and pepper. Toss them around to coat, then roast for about 30 minutes, or until they begin to brown.
Put the roasted tomatoes in a blender with the vinegar and process them until smooth, adding a little of the stock, if needed. Heat the stock in a pan, then add the pureed tomatoes and heat until simmering.
Serve the tomato soup in bowls, with a celery stalk in each. Place the rest of the ingredients on the table for your friends to create the flavorings they desire.
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