This week, Mother Nature decided it was time she brought snow for the Holidays,
and right now is the perfect time to enjoy a lovely bowl of soup; to be more specific, the ubiquitous French Onion soup.
I have, however, decided to give it a Scandinavian twist.
Anise and cardamom spices are prolific in Scandi cooking, they add warmth to their baked goods much like cinnamon.
With the colder temperatures, I must have been craving this warmth.
Overall, the flavor profile I was going for was a savory, multilayer onion soup
with an added warmth of toasted star anise and cardamom,
a twinge of sweetness from the dessert wine and a salty finish from the melted cheese.
The simplicity of this soup is comforting, although the time involved to caramelize the onions should not be rushed.
It will take about 1 ½ -2 hours.
– before you gasp –
The onions thankfully do not need much tending.
In an afternoon, put the pot on, fold laundry – watch a movie and occasionally rotate the onions off the bottom of the pan.
Everything else is steep and stir.
This kind of comfort food is exactly what we need during these cold nights.
Nyde! (Enjoy! in Danish)
Scandi Spiced French Onion Soup
Makes about 10 cups
Serves about 6-8 people
Time involved: a lovely, deliciously smelling afternoon
Caramelized Onion Ingredients
6-7 lbs onions
( a mélange of onions: mostly yellow, some white and red,
a few Cipollini, shallots and if in season, a ration of Walla Walla sweets)
12 Tablespoons Butter (1 ½ sticks)
5 cloves garlic, husk removed
1 cup sweet red wine (a dessert wine works great)
2 Tablespoons flour
Scandi Broth Ingredients
6 cups beef broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
6 sprigs Thyme
4 star anise, toasted
8 cardamom seeds, toasted
3 bay leaves
4 cups water
2-3 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Bread and Cheese
1 loaf French baguette, already stale is best
3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, husk removed
10 chives, finely diced
8 oz . cheese – a mix of smooth Gruyere (a Swiss-type cheese) and salty Parmesan is delicious;
I found a great cheese at Whole Foods that combines these two flavors.
Slice the onions thinly, set aside.
Toast anise stars and cardamom seeds over medium heat until fragrant.
Combine beef broth with toasted spices, thyme, bay leaves and slightly smashed garlic cloves in a sauce pan over medium high heat until a boil.
Boil for 1 minute then reduce heat to low and allow flavors to steep while the onions are caramelizing.
When the onions are close to being done, strain the broth and set aside.
(the broth may be frozen at this point for 6-8 months)
(I used a cast iron pan for the pictures, but a high-sided Dutch oven-type would work best.)
In a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat, add the onions.
Just getting started…
We are THERE.
Caramelize the onions until golden brown and sweet. Stir only occasionally to keep the onions on the bottom of the pan from over cooking.
About 1 ½ -2 hours.
(At this point, the onions may be frozen in a freezer bag for 2 months.
When you are ready, thaw in a Dutch oven over medium- low heat,
then proceed with the rest of the recipe.)
Once the onions are golden brown, add the red dessert wine.
Cook over medium heat until the wine has been absorbed by the onions. About 20 minutes.
Coat the onions with 2 Tablespoons of flour and stir gently for 2 minutes, to remove any chalky flour taste.
Add the strained broth, water and 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar to the onion concoction.
Raise the temperature to medium high for a 1 minute boil.
Reduce the heat down to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 300 °F . Slice the crusty bread to ½ inch thick slices, place on a sheet pan, drizzle lightly with olive oil.
Toast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until brown.
Remove from the oven and scrape the fresh garlic across the toasted slices. 3 -4 good passes across the bread ought to do it.
Thinly slice the cheese and finely chop the chives.
Taste the soup, adjust the flavors as necessary. If it tastes a little bland add a pinch more salt and pepper.
If it tastes flat, add a little more vinegar to brighten it up.
Keep in mind when seasoning, the cheese will add a bit of salt to the soup, so season moderately;
it’s easier to add more salt later than mask a salty soup.
Putting it all together:
Finally, heat the oven to broil temperature, about 450°F.
Ladle the onion soup into oven proof bowls, layer toasted bread slices next, then add thin slices of cheese over the bread with a sprinkle of chives on top.
Place on a sheet pan and carefully watch the cheese as it browns under the broiler.
The melting cheese can shift from perfectly golden brown to black faster than you can say, “Bob’s your uncle.”
So, stay close.
Once golden brown, remove the soup from the oven and serve.
Cozy up with your family to enjoy this classic soup with a Scandi slant on a cold winter’s night.
The caramelized onions freeze wonderfully.
This recipe may be prepared in stages according to your time.
Or freeze what is remaining in 1-2 cup portions and enjoy a personal cup of soup just for you!
The sliced baguette may also be placed in the freezer for 2-3 months.
Toast with oil and garlic once thawed and you are ready to pull it all together.