Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Recipe: Onion Soup

My mom used to make onion soup during the cold winter months—I'd have her fish out the onions (for some reason, I didn't like eating them), I'd pile on huge handfuls of Swiss cheese, and when I was done eating, I'd put the bowl up to my mouth and slurp down the last few spoonfuls of broth. It's the perfect cold weather soup, and when we made it in class two weeks ago during our "Soup Day," I knew I wanted to make my own version at home.
I just have to say that taking pictures of soup, especially steaming hot soup, is really difficult, no matter how awesome your camera is, so the picture included in this post is not all that exciting. I assure you though that the soup is delicious-looking in person: creamy white melted Gruyere, crusty bread soaked with rich brown beef broth, sprinkled with dark green dried thyme—so good!

Yields: Approx. 2 qt. soup
Prep. time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour - 1 hour, 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

  • Approx. 1 lb. yellow onions, thinly sliced (you may want to cut up another half pound or pound, especially if you really like onion)
  • Approx. 1 tbsp. butter, or more as needed
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. (or to taste) dried thyme
  • A pinch of sugar
  • Approx. 2 tsp. flour
  • Approx. 2 quarts beef broth/stock (I actually used all beef broth + 1 can of chicken broth, but you can substitute in veggie or chicken stock as you see fit. The soup should be primarily beef broth/stock though)
  • Approx. 1/2 cup sherry (use real sherry, not cooking sherry, because it has better flavor; add more to taste, if desired; add a splash of Cognac for a little more flavor) 
  • Gruyere and/or Swiss cheese, grated (as needed for garnish)
  • French bread, sliced and toasted (as needed for garnish)

In a large pot, saute the onions in the butter over medium heat. Continue to cook until they've reduced in size and have started turning brown. Add the garlic, sugar, and dried thyme, and continue to cook until the onions are all brown (but not burnt) and fragrant. Add the flour and stir until it is blended into the onion mixture. Pour in a little beef broth and use a spatula or wooden spoon to deglaze the pan (scrape the onion and brown bits off the bottom of the pan). Pour in the remaining beef broth, add the sherry, and bring to a boil. Once the soup has reached a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 30-45 minutes (simmering the soup helps the onion release its flavor and helps all of the flavors of the soup blend). Taste the soup after it has cooked for a few minutes—if it's too salty, add a little water, 1/2 cup at a time.
Serve the soup in large, deep bowls. Place a slice or two of toasted bread in the broth, top with grated cheese, and melt the cheese under the oven broiler or in the microwave. Garnish with dried thyme if desired.

This soup blends meaty, salty, garlicky, and sweet flavors into a hearty broth that only gets more flavorful in the days after it's made, when all of the flavors get a chance to mingle and intensify. Nutty, rich Gruyere and toasted French bread perfectly compliment the soup's flavor, while the sherry in the soup helps balance out its saltiness. Perfect for a cold autumn or winter evening and delicious as left overs.

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