An Ode to Alliums – Three Onion and Garlic Soup
Homecomings are always a bit strange. No, I’m not referring to the early fall school year ritual of sports and parties but, more simply, to the act of returning to ones home after a time away. We have been living in Nashville now for six months and this past Christmas and new years holiday marked the first time that I have returned to my family’s homes in Philadelphia since our southern migration. It is the first time that Dustin and I have traveled down to visit our friends in Delaware since that same move, and so much has changed in the interim. In 2011, not only did we move 761 miles away from our long time haunt and college town of Newark, DE, but we excitingly have moved into our first “real apartment,” Dustin has started his first Grown-Up Job in a field that he is oh so excited about, and, of course, we got engaged.
And the Ten Days passed in an eye-bat. Not only did we make the 809 mile trek up through countless mountain ranges, past thousands of farms cutting though six states to see my family, but we then journeyed on northward another 286 miles to Dustin’s family’s home in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, where we spent the Christmas Holiday making merry with his parents and siblings. And with so many people and so much merriment it always seems as though the feasting never stops. For the past few holidays we have taken a break from the insane many-plate dinners by swapping in a grilled cheese and soup night. When I saw a recipe, in a newly received soup cookbook for an onion soup with mini grilled cheese “croutons” I was inspired to try my hand at making a soup to honor one of my favorite vegetables, the onion.
When I started to do some research on onions I was a bit surprised to find that this veggie, which I had always assumed to be “nutritionally neutral,” is actually quite good for you. Onions are low in calories, virtually fat free, and rich in heart healthy, anti-viral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antihistamine properties. I was so overjoyed by the good news I could feel my eyes well up with tears, oh, wait, never mind, that was just the pile of onions I had chopped. But the fruits of my blood, sweat, and, of course, tears, were well worth the labor. The soup, which I made from 3 varieties of onions and a hearty handful of garlic had a great rich taste and fantastic silky texture.
I am all for not taking unnecessary cheffy steps in pursuit of culinary perfection but it is absolutely necessary that you use high quality chicken stock in the soup as it forms the backbone of the flavor profile, without it the soup will lose much of its sensual richness. To reduce the waterworks effect that onion chopping has on even the toughest home chefs use a freshly honed chefs knife and chop just before you plan to use the onions. Additionally, as tear producing compounds are most concentrated at the root end of the onion, chop the top of first and leave the root end intact while slicing the onions. In fact, after slicing the top off and cutting the onion in half vertically, you can peel the outer shell of the onion back towards the root and use it as a sort of handle to keep the onion firm in place while chopping. However you slice it, this soup is good, easy on the wallet, and will help fight off nagging winter colds and holiday pounds. What a welcome way to start the new year!
Three Onion and Garlic Soup
2 TBSP Unsalted Butter
2 TBSP Olive Oil
3 Large Yellow Onions Sliced (Pick a Nice Sweet Yellow Variety)
6 Shallots Sliced
3 Leeks Sliced
8 Cloves of Garlic Smashed and Roughly Chopped
1 TSP Salt
1 TBSP Light Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
4 Cups Home Made Chicken Stock
Salt and Freshly Cracked Pepper
In a large dutch oven melt oil with butter. Add onion, garlic, leeks, and shallots and sautee until soft (6-8 minutes.) Add salt to the onions and stir. Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring every 5 minutes or so, for 30 minutes. Add sugar, stir, and cook another 10 minutes.
Turn the heat up to high, add the wine and bring to a boil, cook until the wine is almost absorbed. Add the chicken stock, return to a boil, and cook, stirring often for 10 minutes.
Take the pot off the stove and allow to cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Place half the soup in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Return the pureed half to the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper.