Whenever people ask me how many cookbooks I have, and I give the usual noncommital reply, the next question is always, "Why do you have so many?" I’m not exactly sure why, to be honest. All I know is that when I come across a cookbook that I like, I feel an almost immediate bond or connection. I’m happy to say that I have developed a very strong connection to Paulette Mitchell’s A Beautiful Bowl of Soup.
I’m so glad I made this book the Cream Puffs in Venice Flavour of the Month for March. It’s warm and simple and full of the wholesome, filling recipes that I enjoy making on weekends when I have time. The added bonus is that they are all fairly uncomplicated to make so they’re an excellent option for a weeknight dinner as well.
Thus far I’ve learned to make an incredible vegetable stock and black bean soup (check out Tea and Cookies and read Tea’s post about her version based on Mitchell’s recipe) and a surprisingly good red lentil soup. But there are so many incredibly inviting recipes. As I perused each one recently, I found myself having considerable difficulty deciding which to make next. And then I turned the page and saw a recipe for Caramelized Onion Soup.
So here’s where you learn something new about Cream Puff: I have never had onion soup. Never. I think I surprised myself when I realized this. Since this blog is all about realizing all the little food dreams that I have and pushing myself to expand those food horizons, I thought that there would never be a better time than now to finally take the proverbial plunge into that bowl of onion soup.
My understanding of traditional french onion soup is that it’s made with a base of beef broth and onions that have been cooked down to a caramelly softness. The final touch is a piece of country bread that is topped with GruyÃ¨re and then broiled. Mitchell’s recipe uses vegetable stock as opposed to beef stock. Fortunately I had some on hand in the freezer. Her recipe also calls for three different types of onion: sweet onion, red onion and shallot. I had red onion and shallots in my pantry (always do), but I needed to pick up some sweet onion.
This of course highlighted the fact that I don’t know very much about sweet onions. After much "googling" and "wikipediaing", I learned that the most common sweet onions are Vidalia and Walla Walla. Sweet onions have a lower sulfur content and a higher water content than other onions. This explains why they are less pungent and taste "sweeter".
My local supermarket had a sweet onion called "Honey Sweet" from Mexico. Once I was back home with my ingredients, I set about putting together the soup. This brings me to another important point about Mitchell and her recipes: they’re easy to pull together. The only possible challenge this recipe could present is slicing the onions. Fortunately I have a mother who (un)willingly supports my kitchen gadget habit so I whipped out my mandoline and made short work of the onions.
I began cooking the onions down. While they cooked gently (Mitchell advises not to burn the onions as that makes them bitter), I defrosted my vegetable stock and got my bread and goat cheese ready. Once the onions had caramelized, I added dry red wine and the vegetable stock and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes. While it simmered, I toasted my bread slices and then spread on the goat cheese mixture I had prepared. I popped them under the broiler for a minute. When the soup was ready I placed the crostini on top and voilÃ !
The soup was incredible! The onions were sweet, but not too sweet and the broth was rich. The vegetable stock and the wine went together so well. My only disappointment with this recipe is my picture, which doesn’t show enough of the great soup.
But at least I’ve finally had onion soup. I think I’m ready to conquer the French next!
Caramelized Onion Soup with Goat Cheese Crostini
Adapted from A Beautiful Bowl of Soup by Paulette Mitchell.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pound sweet onions, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
- 1/2 pound red onions, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2/3 cup dry red wine
- 3 cups vegetable stock (see recipe here)
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
- salt and pepper to taste (I used 2-1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.)
- Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the onions and stir to coat the onions in butter.
- Cover the pot and cook the onions for 25 minutes over low heat; stir occasionally.
- After 25 minutes, uncover the onions, increase the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes until the onions have become very tender and have turned light brown.
- Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the wine. Increase the heat to high and cook, stirring often, until the liquid dissolves. Keep an eye on the onions and make sure they don’t burn.
- Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover the soup and let simmer for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, season according to taste.
- Top with prepared goat cheese crostini and serve or top with crostini (that have not been broiled yet) and place under broiler until goat cheese begins to melt and bubble. Be sure to use heatproof bowls.
For the goat cheese crostini:
- 1/4 cup goat cheese
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced (or whichever herb you prefer)
- a dash of salt and pepper
- 8 slices of country bread, sliced 1/2-inch thick
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Mash with a fork until smooth and spreadable.
- In a toaster or under the broiler, toast the bread for a few minutes until golden.
- Spread the goat cheese mixture evenly over the crostini. Place under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese begins to melt and bubble. Place the prepared crostini on the soup and serve.
- Alternatively, you can spread the goat cheese mixture evenly on the crostini and place them on the soup which has been poured into heatproof bowls. Place the bowls of soup under the broiler until the cheese begins to melt and bubble.
Note: This recipe yields 4 generous servings. It can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.