Chef Reggie’s tomato bisque warms frozen hearts
Written by KAREN NADLER COTA Sentinel Lifestyles Editor
Tuesday, 11 February 2014 09:46
PEMBERVILLE — It’s enough to warm your heart.
|Chef Reggie Hall is ready to serve his creamy tomato bisque. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Hot soup and thoughtful neighbors are what Otterbein Portage Valley Lifestyle Community is combining during the month of February.
Reggie Hall, OPV’s executive chef, is at the center of a tasty community outreach project built around the popularity of his soups and the challenge that the record-setting winter of 2014 is presenting for Wood County area seniors.
Maybe they wouldn’t normally qualify as homebound, or maybe they would. But four- and five-foot snowdrifts combined with subzero temperatures are keeping a lot of older citizens stuck inside their dwellings in recent weeks, and the fun just keeps on coming, week after week.
In a creative response, every Friday during the month of February Otterbein Portage Valley has committed to deliver homemade soup to the homes of area seniors who call in advance.
“We did this last year, and it went real well,” noted Hall. “We want to reach the community as much as possible. They’re all part of us.”
Hall changes the soup varieties offered each week, with one likely offering being his tomato bisque. He has submitted a recipe that aligns very closely with his own bisque for today’s Cook’s Corner.
“Fresh tomatoes are milled, then cooked with beef bouillon and a bit of sugar before being combined with roux-thickened milk” he said in describing the preparation process.
“It’s been 15 years I’ve been making that tomato bisque recipe,” he estimated.
The resulting texture is “velvety.”
“I like it because of the fresh basil. I’m able to sweat it with the onion and puree it with the tomatoes. I kind of, like, caramelize the onion and the basil, and then I puree it a bit. That gives it that rich flavor.”
Hall said some people like to use half and half in their tomato bisque, “some like to use heavy cream, and some use milk. It depends what kind of flavor they want.”
His own personal preference is for heavy cream.
But keep in mind one thing.
“The more cream you put in it, the more you lighten it” in color. “To keep its traditional look, add some tomato paste.”
The added paste will help maintain a rich red color instead of an odd pink shade.
As far as Hall is concerned, the two words that should never go together are “can” and “soup.”
“I make all my soups from scratch; I have a variety. I make ’em fresh every morning,” said Hall, who has been the head chef at Otterbein Portage Valley for the past six and a half years.
Folks who have resided at OPV temporarily, perhaps during a rehabilitation stay, are very familiar with the quality of his soups.
Just last week, says Hall, he had a woman “who was going home, and she was worried about being snowed in. I told her ‘I’m gonna get you a quart of soup and it’s not gonna cost you anything but a smile.’”
He understood her concern about being snowed in.
The Toledo resident found his drive to work on Pemberville Road presented a serious challenge more than once this winter.
“Oh yeah, I’ve had a hard time getting in.” Often, he picks up fellow employees enroute when it snows heavily.
Anyone who would like to be placed on the delivery list for OPV’s community outreach soup project should call Geri Ricker, Senior Living lifestyle counselor, at 419-833-8917. She’s the one who is taking the orders.
Calling at least day ahead is ideal, Hall added, “but even if they forget” and call on Friday morning that doesn’t bother him. “I’m always making more soup.”
He’s also quite willing to share his best recipes. In fact, “I’m planning on doing a class on how to make soups here in March.”
The class will be open to the public. His plan is to serve “a soup brunch with multiple fresh breads.”
Hall puts a lot of thought into the flavor of the bread and other sides he pairs with his soups.
For the tomato bisque he opted to make garlic-basil pita chips, with a little cheese sprinkled on top.
“The pita chips are just something a little different than saltine crackers. I try to avoid using salt” since it isn’t good for anyone’s blood pressure.
Tomato Bisque II
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour, 15 minutes
2 lbs. tomatoes
2 cubes beef bouillon, crumbled
1 Tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart milk (or half-and-half)
1. Run the tomatoes through a food mill to remove the seed and skins, and place in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the bouillon, sugar, salt, bay leaf, basil and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes. (If you’re going to can this mixture, process it now.)
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in flour all at once to form a roux, cook 1 minute. Whisk in milk, a little at a time, cooking and stirring constantly until thickened. Stir into tomato mixture and heat through.