Charles Mayes, the founder of Cafe Josie, has been serving this soup at the Austin Empty Bowl Project for so many years that it’s become a signature soup of the event. (It was also featured on one of Rachael Ray’s early Food Network shows.) Mayes, who recently sold his Clarksville restaurant to longtime employee Cody Taylor and chef Brandon Fuller a few years ago, says you can roast the vegetables instead of grilling them, but they won’t have the same fire-roasted flavor.
Fire-Roasted Artichoke Tomato Bisque
4 Roma tomatoes
1 red bell pepper
4 whole artichoke hearts, on skewer
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
Several sprigs of cilantro, leaf only, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cream
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
Cotija or manchego cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts (optional, for garnish)
Coat tomato, pepper and artichoke hearts lightly with oil and place on grill over hot coals. Turn occasionally to sear all surfaces. Remove, place on a plate or in a large bowl and cool. Reserve any juices that accumulate.
In a large soup pot, heat butter over medium flame and sauté onion and garlic. While aromatics are cooking, place cooled vegetables in a food processor and pulse until vegetables are in small pieces, but not pureed. Add vegetable stock, grilled vegetables, cilantro and salt to onions and garlic. Bring to a simmer and heat evenly.
Combine cornstarch and 1/2 cup water in a small bowl. Slowly add to saucepan while stirring to combine. Stir in the cream. Season to taste and continue to heat until the soup reaches desired thickness.
Serve with cotija or manchego cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds or pine nuts. Serves 4.
— Charles Mayes