This month’s Veggie is the humble onion. Rarely does it get to be the star of the show, but a long and slow cooking soup is where it really proves its worth. With all the hands on cooking for the holidays, it is nice to have a dish that has few ingredients and comes together quickly. Onions benefit gut health, and are also a great source of Vitamin C, fiber, and folic acid. They are also a great supplier of Quercetin, an antioxidant that helps protect against the effects of various types of cancer and other disorders such as breast and gastric cancers and cataracts. An easy soup chock full of an ingredient so good for us is easy to get behind!
French onion soup
3 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 sweet onions (4 pounds), sliced thinly
½ teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons flour
2 quarts of beef broth
Pepper to taste
5 sprigs parsley
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 loaf crusty bread
Melt butter and oil in a large pot. Add sliced onions one large handful at a time. After each layer, sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Let the onions sweat undisturbed (no stirring) at medium heat for 20 minutes, then add the sugar. Stir occasionally until the onions are uniformly brown, about 45 minutes to an hour. Make sure the heat is on medium; if it is too low the onions will reduce but not brown correctly.
Once the onions are a lovely, rich brown, sprinkle in three tablespoons of flour, mix in with the onions, and cook for three minutes. Tie the parsley, thyme, and bay together with kitchen twine to make a bouquet garni. Add the broth and the bouquet garni to the pot. Stir and scrape up any onion bits stuck to the bottom. Simmer partially covered for an hour. Remove and discard the garni. Add pepper, then taste and adjust seasonings if needed. The soup should taste rich and complex, not like hot broth with lots of onions.
To serve, slice the crusty bread into rounds about ½ inch thick (enough to cover the top of the soup, so adjust how many slices based on the top surface area of your bowls and how many people you are serving). Put the bread on a baking sheet and place on the rack six inches from the broiler for 1-2 minutes. Place oven-proof soup bowls on that same baking sheet, then ladle in hot soup, leaving about one-inch at the top free. Place croutons toasted side down in the soup and sprinkle liberally with a mixture of the shredded cheeses. Put the pan back under the broiler and watch very attentively for about three minutes until the cheese is bubbling aggressively. Remove and serve with multiple warnings about bowl temperature.