After a lovely sojourn in California I’m back in Germany. True to form summer has begun to falter and there’s a certain bite to the air that hints Fall is just around the corner. Though I’m somewhat reluctant to put away my sundresses just yet the bakeries here have started selling my all-time favorite Fall staple, Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake) and today I even caught myself looking longingly at my rugged leather boots standing idly in the corner. Suddenly the thought of layering up in knit tights and woolen scarves seems much more romantic and I’m feeling a little more welcoming towards the upcoming season at present. This is a good thing because yesterday I woke up to stormy skies and I had one thing on my mind: soup.
Soup is such a wonderful thing to have simmering away on the stove on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Normally I tend to lean towards a nice hearty vegetable and legume variety but my boyfriend politely requested his favorite- onion- and I was happy to acquiesce. There’s something incredibly decadent about topping little ramekins of soup with crusty baguette and smothering them with broiled cheese. What is possibly more comforting than broiled cheese? Not much in my book.
It should also be mentioned that this soup was a team effort. About halfway through slicing the onions my eyes began to water so profusely that I had to call in my second and let him finish them off. I don’t know if they happened to be a particularly potent batch of onions or if I’m just losing my edge but there you have it- don’t be afraid to ask for help on that part.
The real work you need to worry about with this recipe isn’t in fact the slicing but more importantly the caramelization process. This is where the magic happens and where you transcend from having a pot of broth with onions to creating a deeply flavored onion stock. At this point I left the house for my yoga class (where I proceeded to be tortured with hand stands for 90 minutes while smelling faintly of onion) and my boyfriend, Tim, happily babysat my onions and coaxed them to their glorious golden brown state.
Comforting Onion Soup
Inspired by Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking
6 large sweet yellow onions, finely sliced
3 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 t salt (plus more to taste)
1/2 t granulated sugar
3 T all-purpose flour
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
Black pepper to taste
generous servings of grated cheese of choice ( I used Gouda here because that’s what I had on hand but I usually like to use something with more of a bite like Gruyere or Parmesan Reggiano)
Begin by heating the butter and olive oil in a dutch oven or a large saucepan. Once they are heated add the onions and coat them in the oil and butter. Lower the heat and cover, allowing the onions to cook gently for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes have passed raise the heat to medium, remove the lid and add the salt and sugar. Now begins the somewhat long caramelization process where you have to keep a firm eye on your onions. Stir frequently until the onions turn a deep golden brown. This will take roughly 40 minutes- don’t worry if it takes longer, they will brown, I promise.
Once your onions have achieved the desired color dust them with the flour and cook for two to three minutes. Add the white wine and the stock. Bring to a simmer and season to taste. Cook partially covered for 45 minutes and serve.
At this point I ladled personal sized portions into oven-proof ramekins. I topped the soup with two slices of baguette and covered them with grated cheese. Pop them under the broiler for 5-10 minutes or until the bread is crisp and toasted and the cheese is bubbling and has begun to brown. ***Do not walk away from your broiling soups*** I elegantly sat myself on the kitchen floor and stared imperiously through the oven window. (Note: this does not speed up the broiling process but it does help avoid any blackened cheese episodes)
Enjoy piping hot with a glass of crisp white white and a simple green salad.