Since I got back from France, I have been dreaming and obsessing over French Onion soup. I ate it quite a bit in France and put it on my list to re-create. When I sat down to make it, I decided I didn’t want to make it exactly as the French do, and adjusted it to some of the local ingredients here.
I love Borettane onions, a small, flat Italian pearl onion which are usually served grilled or sott’olio as an appetizer. I thought it would be good to have them as center-stage in my soup. Of course, with Italian onions, I needed to pair an Italian cheese with it.
Italian Onion Soup Recipe
500g Borettane onions – if you can’t find these, use white or yellow onions
3 cups broth (turkey, chicken, beef, or vegetable) – I used the very last of my turkey stock from Thanksgiving and added a 1/2 cube beef stock.
1 splash rum, vodka or wine
For the “croutons”:
1 baguette or crostini
Grana Padano (or Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino)
- Cut the borettane onions in half, remove the outer skin and core them to remove the hard middle part. Heat the butter in a deep, heavy-bottomed (NOT non-stick) saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter starts to melt, place all the onions in the pan. Don’t stir! Now walk away.
- After 15-20 minutes of cooking over medium heat, check if the onions have softened. Continue cooking until they are soft enough to break apart when prodded (this can be 30 minutes). Once they’ve reached this stage, gently break up the onions and mix so that each piece gets coated with the butter and juices in the pan. If it’s a bit black on the bottom, don’t worry – we’ll get to that in a minute.
- Some people advocate adding sugar to help the caramelization but these didn’t need any. If you like, add a tablespoon of sugar and continue to cook. Once the onions have broken down quite a bit, are dark and very little liquid remains in the pan (from 45-60 minutes of cooking time), splash a bit of rum (I used Havana dark since I had it on hand) or vodka or wine into the pan. Stir quickly so that the pan is de-glazed and you pick up all the lovely dark juices from the bottom of the pan.
- Add the broth to the onion mixture. Bring to a slow boil. Taste now and add salt/pepper right before serving.
- While the soup is heating, turn on the broiler. Prepare small slices of baguette or pre-cut crostini rounds on a baking sheet. Add a sliver of butter and then fresh-sliced Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino. Broil until the cheese has melted.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and add the croutons to each bowl, submerging them or ladling extra liquid on top to soften them. If you’d prefer, you can ladle the soup into individual, oven-safe bowls and put the bread into the soup and broil them together. I decided to add the bread to the soup after toasting.
So it’s not quite French onion soup, but it’s a delicious compromise. I definitely think it competed with some of the versions I had while in Paris, and I think due to the fact I used homemade stock. How would you make this version your own? What would you add/take away?