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I came up with this recipe for Five Onion Soup with Garlic Croutons when I wanted to make a soup for our Sunday night dinner’s first course and only had one of each kind of onion. Laziness is the mother of invention. This is a great first course soup or it could be served with a sexy grilled cheese sandwich to make a complete meal for lunch or light supper. It has a lovely taste and mouth feel, creamy and delightful, and with no cream at all.
Varieties of onions don’t have that much difference in flavors once cooked. Sure, there are sweet onions, good old yellow onion, red onions, white onions, but honestly, once cooked into a dish…they all kind of blend.
Unless of course you are an onion connoisseur, then you might be able to tell the difference.
But raw…more difference present themselves. Red onions are milder, sweet onions, as you might suspect, are a bit milder, and sweeter. White onions are more acidic = harsher. And yellow onion, my choice for daily cooking, has a nice earthy flavor with just a hint of heat and acidity. But once cooked, they are not all that different. So when making this recipe, don’t stress over the onion. Just put in, proportionately, the right amount of onion to the rest of the ingredients.
Leeks on the other hand, have a distinctive flavor, so please don’t omit them. Leeks lend a very mild onion flavor. Widely used in Europe, they are now finding their place in American cuisine.
Leeks should be trimmed and cleaned before you use them. As they grow dirt can become lodged between their thin layers. The dark green part is tough, and while good for stocks, it doesn’t have the delicate flavor and texture of the white bulb or the tender light green part just above the bulb.
Cut away the dark green parts and the hairy root end, where most of the dirt is. Then slice it and put it into a sieve and run some cold water over it, swishing with your fingers, to remove any dirt that might linger. Now, honestly, most of the leeks I find in the supermarket are pretty clean, but the farmer’s market is a whole ‘nother story. So as with all cooking, take a look, see how much work you need to do, then just, as they say, do it.
Shallots are another one of those foods that if you are unfamiliar with, you might not see the “why” of it. Shallots lend both a mild onion flavor, and a mild garlic flavor to the mix. The worst part of shallots is removing the skin, but once again I can help you with that. Just like garlic, if the shallot is “bammed” with a knife, the skin loosens and is easier to remove. As this soup will be blended, a little skin won’t hurt (shhhhh don’t tell).
There is nothing better than a fresh crouton. OK…maybe a few things, but a piece of bread, fried in butter, baked in the oven to delectable soft crispness? Come-on. It’s good..right? You can use a pre made crouton, if you must, but in reality, it’s not hard to make your own, you’ve probably got some left-over bread from something, so go for it. French bread, Italian bread, even sour dough breads will work in this soup. A slow oven (not more then 350 degrees) plus the initial sauté in the pan is the key to a good crouton. Get it just to the edge of being done, turn off the oven, let it sit in the still hot oven for about 5 minutes, then remove it. You are looking for a crispy edge with a still chewable middle. Perfect.
This soup takes hardly anytime to make. You don’t have to worry about how finely you cut anything, cook according to the size you cut. You can hardly over-cook this as it will be blended.
Melt the butter in a heavy large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the leek, onion, red onion, green onion, shallot, celery and garlic. Saute until translucent; about 8 minutes. Add the Sherry; simmer until the liquid evaporates. Add the potato and broth; simmer until the potato is very tender, about 20 minutes.
Puree the soup in a blender (be very careful when pureeing hot liquids, hold the top on with a folded towel and do not overfill the containers; puree in batches). Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350°F.Melt the butter in a large sauté pan; add the garlic and bread cubes, sauté for a few minutes. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until crispy, about 10 minutes.
Bring the soup to a simmer, thinning with additional stock, if desired. Ladle into deep bowls; lay the croutons on top and sprinkle with chives, if desired.
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