I’m a soup lover in a house of soup doubters. Ben thinks he doesn’t like soup, but actually does and the kids… well, they’ve both entered a phase of profound suspicion of anything new. Do you see how hard it is for me? I could have a bowl of soup every day. And my friend and brilliant nutritionist,Theresa Albert, assures me soup is one of the best foods for your health. When it’s a healthy soup, not only can it include multiple servings of veggies but it fills us up in ways other foods don’t. A meal that starts with soup will end up containing fewer calories than one without because you’ll be satisfied sooner. Of course, calorie counts aren’t an issue for kids as young as mine but, hey, this is a site for the whole family!
When I asked SPC readers which soups they’d like us to cook up (we frequently ask questions like that on our Facebook page if you want to have more input — we love hearing from you!), frequent guest Natalee Caple suggested French Onion soup, which several other readers immediately agreed was a great idea for this time of year. I love French Onion soup — love the earthy broth and the stringy, melty cheese — but wondered if it was kid friendly enough. I can just imagine my kids plunging a spoon into the bready-y lid and sending soup all over the show. So, I McGyvered this slightly to make it easier to manage. I chopped the onions into smaller pieces and cubed up the bread that tops the soup. I also blended a bit of Parmesan cheese together with a more traditional Gruyere because I knew I’d get attitude about full on Gruyere. But perhaps your children are less suspicious of new cheeses?
photos by Maya Visnyei
French Onion Soup
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp butter
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp flour
4 cups stock (I used a low sodium chicken stock but many recipes call for beef)
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
half a stick of baguette
1 cup or so of grated Gruyere and Parmesan mixed.
photos by Maya Visnyei
Trim the ends off the onions and peel off the papers. Cut each onion in half lengthwise and then lay each half down flat on your cutting board. Now slice those halves into the thinnest slices you can — mind your fingers! Depending on the size on your onions, you might even want to chop those rings in half.
In a big pot or Dutch oven, melt your butter and toss in the onion slices, minced garlic, sugar, thyme and pinch of salt and pepper. Give it all a little stir and then let it sweat over medium low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir and turn over the heap of onions every few minutes to make sure it’s all cooking evenly. The onions will become very soft and caramelized but watch they don’t get too dark.
Sprinkle the flour over the onion mixture and stir it together. It will make it look a bit sticky. Now add the vinegar and a cup of stock. Stir well, scraping the bottom of the pot to deglaze all the goodness that will be sticking there. Add the rest of the stock. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, although it could bubble away longer if you need it to.
While your soup is simmering away you can get the sandwich part going. Turn your oven onto broil. Cut the bread into about inch thick slices. Cut as many slices as bowls of soup you’ll be serving. Lay them out on a cookie sheet and now put a layer of the cheese mix on each piece of bread.
Pop it all in the oven on a high rack and keep an eye on them. You want the cheese to melt and bubble and the bread to brown but not burn, obviously. I’ve heard stories of people who get distracted by Twitter and burn meals.… Anyway. Pull the bread out of the oven and let it cool a bit. Once they’re cool enough to handle cut the bread into large crouton-like cubes. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a slice of bread’s worth of croutons.