Seasons’ Eatings: Red French Onion Soup
By Karleen Armstrong
Denver, CO – Winter is upon us and if there is one prominent theme that has been relaying from recipe to recipe for the past several weeks, it’s comfort. Risotto, soup, polenta, grits- all simple, humble dishes that warm you from the inside out and which one begins to crave this time of year. My recipe this week is no exception. After seeing Brianna’s recipe for Turkey Pho I knew I wanted to continue the use of star anise (pho is a bowl full of comfort I’ve tucked into at least three times this month already). This very unique, licorice flavored spice can make a big impact on a recipe depending on what it is paired with. A while ago I came across a recipe for French Onion Soup in which star anise provides a delicious sweet and peppery compliment to the sweetness in the onions. Not only was this a fun way to experiment with anise, but this is a favorite soup of mine that I’ve been dying to try making at home. These chilly weeks between Thanksgiving and big holiday meals just seem to call for it.
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All of the farmer’s markets in my area closed a couple of weeks ago, so it’s nice to be able to rely on natural foods stores, such as Sprouts, that have become more accessible in recent years. I like that even though the farmer’s markets are closed, I can still feel good about buying food in a grocery store where I know the products are local or U.S. grown and produced. A simple recipe such as this one also makes it easier to shop consciously, because you only need a few quality key ingredients. The star anise wasn’t as easy to find as I had assumed and I eventually had to settle on anise seeds. They don’t have the wonderful shape, but they still bring a delicious liquorice flavor.
Unlike traditional french onion soups, this recipe only takes about 45 minutes start to finish to make, which is great if you need an easy, cozy weeknight meal. The red onions, which I used instead of yellow, taste extra sweet, but will get balanced out by the cheese and toast “gratiné”. To finish the soup off I topped it with buttered fresh whole wheat baguette toasts and a heaping of Gruyere cheese, then I set it under the broiler until the melted cheese started to brown. There really is nothing better than digging a spoon through that toasted crouton top and scooping up the most perfect cheesey, melty, warm, and comforting bite.
Red French Onion Soup
with little adaptation from Gourmet.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cups water
- 2 whole star anise or 1 teaspoon anise seeds
- 10-12 black peppercorns
- 2 lb. red onions cut as thinly as possible into 1/2 slices.
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup red cooking wine
- 1 baguette to yield 12 – 16 (depending on the size of your bowl) 1 inch think slices
- 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
- Prepare ingredients by slicing the onions, baguette, and grating the cheese.
- In a medium pot, bring the chicken broth, water, anise, and pepper to a boil. Remove from the heat and let the spices steep for 15 minutes.
- In another medium pot, cook onions in oil over medium heat for 15-30 minutes or until golden. Cover the pot and stir the onions occasionally.
- While the onions are cooking, toast baguette slices in a medium pan over medium heat for 1-2 minutes on each side.
- When the onions have reached your desired softness, add the red wine and continue to cook for 1-2 minuted until reduced.
- Strain the broth and spice mixture into the onions and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste.
- Preheat broiler (I set mine at 450 degrees), fill four oven-safe soup bowls with broth and place on a baking sheet.
- Sprinkle some of the cheese into each bowl of soup and stir. Butter sliced toasts and cover each bowl with as many as will fit. Cover the toasts with more cheese and broil for 3-5 minutes until the cheese is melted and turning golden brown.
Karleen is lives in Denver, Colorado. She is a professional ice skater currently pursuing a career in sustainable food. She never travels without her measuring cups, a loaf pan, and a cute apron.