Something about this cool autumn weather has had me craving onion soup. Well, the weather combined with this giant bag of yellow onions that’s been sitting on my kitchen counter. But it’s not the bog-standard crock-stuffed-with-stale-bread-and-dripping-in-burnt-cheese variety I’m after, no. I wanted something flavorful, savory, and tasting of onions without being too heavy – or unhealthy for that matter. In search of the ideal recipe, I learned that the biggest complaint most cooks have with onion soup is the time and attention necessary to evenly brown and caramelize the onions. I also learned that most of the onion soup recipes out there seemed overly reliant on cheese and croutons to give them their flavor. So I had an idea; one that started with building my own recipe from the ground up.
Instead of browning the onions on the cooktop I thought I would try them in the oven. Not only would it save me the effort of constant stirring, but I hoped the roasting process would release more of the onion’s natural sugars and produce a richer carmelization, too. Putting approximately four pounds of sliced yellow onions into a Dutch oven with a few tablespoons of butter, I roasted the onions, covered, for an hour, by which point the onions had reduced in volume by half. Stirring the pot and scraping up the few brown bits, I added a little sea salt and put them back in the oven with the lid slightly ajar. After another ninety minutes, I pulled out what I’d call an onion ragout. It was beautiful, deep brown, and I was tempted to simply spread it on toast and devour it then and there. But I persevered, deglazing the pan over high heat with a little Madeira before adding a few bay leaves and a quart of vegetable stock. Once it came to a simmer it was done. As with most soups I knew the flavors would really come together overnight, so I allowed it to cool and added a little black pepper for good measure. The following night I brought it back to a simmer, cubed a few pieces of French bread, and ladled soup over them in a bowl. It was exactly what I had been craving: simple, warm and richly flavored without being heavy. One pot, six ingredients, perfect.