The base recipe for this soup dates back to 1953 and it’s from Jacques E. Haeringer. Most of his recipes are incredibly simple and I’ve adapted the original recipe significantly over the years so that I can throw it together in about 15 minutes and it’s great for cooking on a camping trip with some changes in the product line-up. I’ve exchanged most of the butter for olive oil and I prefer Asiago to the traditional Parmesan because it’s available locally and in my opinion, it’s a better melting cheese.
The hurdles to making onion soup are mostly time related. Onion soups use caramelized onions and they take about an hour to sweat down. Then you have to make the roux and then you will need some good beef stock to add to the soup as well croutons or bread, and cheese. None of the steps are difficult, but they can be time-consuming. No wonder so many people order this when dining out!
Over the years I’ve developed a few short cuts in the cooking process; a kind of second harvest way of cooking. I caramelize and dehydrate many pounds of southern sweet onions during the spring when they first come in season. I put the caramelized onions in small freezer containers that work for most of my recipes. I put the dehydrated onions in a glass jar with a good fresh rubber seal in a dark pantry so they will retain their color and flavor for the whole year.
The beef broth in my freezer comes from cooking up beef roasts throughout the year along with meaty soup bones from a local farmer. I always de-fat any leftover broth/drippings from cooking up a roast and then freeze it to add to soup stock. Soup stock is not difficult if you approach it in the same manner as the onions. Get some meat bones from your local farmer and make your stock in a large enough quantity to freeze for several recipes. You really only need to do this a couple of times a year. If you are really in a pinch or you want to make this on a camping trip; I prefer the “More Than Gourmet” brand of stock and keep the 1.5oz packages on hand for emergencies or trips. These are shelf stable and make up 4 cups of stock. You’ll be able to skip the roux if you use this product because it has gelatin in it already. You can use totally dehydrated onions if you are going camping although the cooking time and finished product will differ slightly. I would also add dry spices like thyme, rosemary, oregano and change the croutons out for barley because it’s easier to carry. With the addition of a beef, buffalo or venison jerky, you have a complete meal for camping.
Roux takes just a few minutes to make fresh. If you need a gluten-free roux you just need to do equal parts of butter to rice flour. Croutons are simple to make from leftover bread that you have stored in your freezer. Or, if you prefer, you can use a store-bought variety or something from your local bread maker. We have a couple of excellent bread bakers in our area so I regularly change-up what I use in this recipe.
I decided to try some of the venison sausage that I had on hand and the spices made an excellent addition to the soup. If you like balsamic or port vinegar, you might enjoy just a touch of that added to the soup right before you top it with the cheese and croutons. And I love this soup with some locally made spanakopita. The spinach, cheese and phyllo just seem to be a perfect blend of flavors.
This will make 2 very generous servings for a meal or 4 healthy servings for an appetizer.
- 3/4 cup of caramelized onions
- 1/4 cup dehydrated sliced onions
- 4 cups beef broth/stock
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour or rice flour
- 1 1/2 cups toasted croutons
- 2 tablespoons each of grated Gruyere & Asiago cheese
- Optional: tad of good aged balsamic or port vinegar at the end before serving
- To make the roux, melt the 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy dutch oven pot and add your flour of choice. Cook over a medium heat stirring constantly to avoid burning the mixture.
- After about 5 minutes you should have a lovely light brown color and a crumbly texture. Add in your stock and using a gravy whisk make sure to blend the roux and bring to a full boil.
- As the stock thickens add in the caramelized onions and the dehydrated onions. Simmer for about 5 minutes to rehydrate the onions and then taste for salt and pepper.
- If you want to add some pre-cooked meat, you should add about a cup’s worth when you add in the onions. That will give it time to warm up sufficiently.
- Get out your toasted bread croutons and warm them up as the onions are cooking.
- Serve by placing your soup in a bowl, then add the cheese and then the warm croutons.