Sunday, 11 September 2011

Onion Soup: Onion-y, Beer-y, Fall-y Goodness

Fall is the absolute best, in my opinion. Best clothes, best natural light, best attitude, and definitely the best time to cook. You're still revelling in summer's bounty, but it's cool enough that the idea of turning on the stove isn't repulsive. Fall comes and I want to roast, braise, and cook the crap out of everything.  Including onions. Is there a more delicious thing to do with an onion than to cook it forever, concentrating and caramelizing its wonderful flavour? I think not.  

Getting to this point was not pretty. I positively gush tears
while chopping onions. And not in a hot way.
This soup is all about the power of the mighty onion. However, slicing onions is, I find, quite painful. You need about five cups of thinly sliced onions for this soup, and I know there are 25 great little tricks you can do to prevent the painful tearing up that occurs when slicing an onion, but I swear to God I have tried every single one of them and nothing works. They just don't.  Lighting a candle, putting your onion in the freezer first, making sure your knife is super sharp, chewing gum, wearing a mask (which is ridiculous)...anyway, it's just the way it is. A little bit of pain for a lot of reward.

I adapted this recipe from a couple of places:  one,, and another recipe I saw on the Food Network Canada website, by that exceedingly eager and effeminate guy, Ricardo - you know him? Anyway, you can find it at, by searching for Onion Soup with Beer.

Onion Soup

5 cups of regular old white onions, sliced thinly as shown in the photos above
1 tbsp butter, for frying onions
1 tbsp oil, for frying onions
Salt and pepper, to taste
5 cups of beef stock       (Don't worry about doing something crazy like making your own beef stock. But, do worry about buying the good store-bought stuff. And read the ingredients:  a lot of powdered beef stock crystals have MSG in them - and while, frankly, I'm pretty okay with eating MSG when I decide to indulge in ma-po tofu and moo shu pork and the like, I'm not really okay with it sneaking into my stock. So, have a look, and try a few kinds to see which kind you like best.)
1 big can of dark-ish beer     (I used Boddington's, because it was in the fridge - any beer that's not like say, a Coors Light, would probably work.)
2 tbsp of dijon mustard

To top off the soup:

Baguette slices, toasted      (I used one slice of toasted bread per bowl.)
A couple of handfuls of grated cheese, to melt on top of the toasted baguette slices     (I used a combination of sharp cheddar and parmesan - gruyere is the most killer cheese to use in this situation, but I just didn't have it in me to make a trip to the store just for gruyere. I advise you to just use any strong flavoured, hard cheese that is grate-able.)

So, you need to cook the pants off these onions. You melt your butter and your oil in a nice, big, heavy Dutch oven/soup pot. In go the onions, over pretty low heat (we're talking a 3 or so). Give the onions a stir to get them coated with the butter and oil, and then plop on your pot lid and don't do a thing for 15 minutes. Once that time has elapsed, come back, uncover the onions and turn up the heat to medium. Keep them over medium heat, stirring every few minutes for about 45 minutes. Did you just gasp? I know, it seems like a long time, but this step is so so so so crucial to this soup. Remember, they're just onions. So you need to really give them some time to make them sing.

Once about an hour has elapsed since the onions met the stovetop, they should have turned a deeper brown, and there should be lots of brown bits on the bottom of your pot. Add your stock and can of beer, stirring everything up well and ensuring that you get all those lovely browned bits up off the bottom. They add lots of flavour. Then stir in the mustard. Bring to a boil, and taste for salt, adding some depending on how salty your stock was. Add pepper. Bring the soup down to a simmer and let it go for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Please sir, can I have some more?

I didn't have ovenproof bowls (I know, I just need to run to the nearest Salvation Army, Goodwill, grandmother's basement, etc., for a set of french onion soup bowls) so I toasted up some baguette slices. Once they were toasted, I put the grated cheese on top and ran the toast under the broiler again until the cheese melted. I placed a cheesy baguette toast on top of the soup in each bowl. The best is if you push that piece of cheesy bread right down into the soup, and let it get all soggy and incorporated.

I served this with more bread and a green salad with lots of fresh parsley in it (herbs are great in salads, just as their own ingredient - especially ones like flat leaf parsley, cilantro, basil). It should also be noted that this soup is sooooo dirt cheap to make. It's great to throw together when you realize you've nothing else in your fridge but onions and cheese. Also, if all you've got is stale bread, break that up and stir it in to the finished soup. They could have eaten this in Dickens' time, for God's sake! It also manages to taste hearty and light at the same time, and was perfect for a September night's dinner on the porch.

Makes about 4 or 5 servings.

1 comment:

  1. Top notch Blog, and let me tell you, I couldn't agree more with you when it comes to the autumn, or how the idea of turning on the stove is utterly repulsive in the summer.