Onion Soup

This is one of those soups that I make often, from memory with no real recipe. To be sure, I started out with one at some point, but over the years, it’s been refined, changed and adapted so that the onion soup I produce these days is nothing like the one I first started out making. One thing that hasn’t changed is its popularity. Try it. Even if you’re not a fan of onion, I think you’ll love this stuff!!!

Caveat: I like my onions thinly sliced so I use a food processor with a chute attachment to do mine.

  • 2 large red onions
  • 2 large Spanish onions
  • 2 small white onions
  • 2 small Vidalia onions
  • 6 large shallots
(you could use fewer onions, but, really . . . why???)

All of the above thinly sliced, along with 8 – 10 cloves of garlic, crushed

In a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, melt three tablespoons of butter in three tablespoonfuls of olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook till softened and transparent and just slightly golden. Doing this over medium heat while constantly stirring, will ensure that the onions will soften without browning. Once the onions are so soft that they’re almost melting, add in five heaping tablespoons of flour. Stir well and allow the flour to cook while still stirring. Make sure it doesn’t get too browned, reduce the heat a bit if you need to.

Once you’ve achieved a good pasty “mess” you can pour in a glass (6oz) of good Merlot. Remember the adage is true: Never cook with a wine that you wouldn’t drink! Allow the wine to permeate the onion mixture and at the same time, use it to help scrape any bits off the bottom of the pot. After letting the wine be absorbed, you can start adding warm beef (or vegetable) stock to your pot. I like to add it in small doses, say a half cup or so at a time, making sure after each addition that it’s all melded well together. In all you’re going to add about ten cups of stock. At the half way point, or after adding five cups of stock, I add a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree (not paste) because I feel it enhances the flavor. You don’t need to if you prefer not to. Complete the stock addition process.

Once all the stock has joined the onions in the pot, you can add some seasoning. Here’s what I use: four bay leaves, a handful of fresh Italian parsley, ten thyme sprigs, a good handful of peppercorns, and one whole dried hot chile. I leave them all whole so that I can fish them out of the soup when I serve it (well, the peppercorns kinda stay put, but you get my drift).

Now you just need to sit back and be patient. The longer it simmers, the more the flavours get a chance to marry and become a fabulous taste sensation. I generally start my soup in the morning and serve it for supper. That means that once all the prep and additions are done, it’s usually going to simmer on my back burner for at least six hours. At about the halfway point, taste your soup and adjust it for any seasonings; you may decide it needs salt, or you can take out the chili pepper now so it doesn’t overpower the other flavours.

And here’s a secret, if you CAN wait, it’s best cooled, refrigerated and reheated to serve the next day. But if you’re like me, you won’t be able to wait. There should be plenty for leftovers though!

Once the soup is done, you assemble it for serving.

You’ll need croutons, which you can easily make from day old crusty bread that you slice, toast in the oven and then cut up into small bite size pieces.

You’ll also need shredded cheese. Use anything you prefer really, though the traditional cheese topping is a Swiss or gouda. I use a combination of several cheeses, usually whatever is in the fridge, but almost always including a good cheddar, Swiss, havarti and even some grated Parmigianino and asiago.

To assemble you’ll need oven proof bowls and to preheat your broiler.

Place a handful of croutons and a tablespoonful of cheese in the bottom of each bowl and spoon the hot soup over it, keeping an eye out for the herbs that you want to remove. Once the bowls have been filled almost to the top, sprinkle them generously with more cheese, enough to make a blanket over the soup. Place the bowls under the hot broiler for a few minutes, just long enough to melt the cheese and start it becoming golden. Serve.

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