Right Food for the Season -
Written by Chad Ammidown
I’m always looking for a way to add a little something extra to a standard dish, something non-traditional. We had a streak of sub-70 degree days last week and suddenly I found myself hankering for something hearty and nourishing in the face of impending autumn. Our CSA share had several yellow onions and a small bunch of spinach. So, I thought I would improvise my own take on a French Onion soup and see how it came out. In the case of this soup…whoa! Perfect for a crisp day when you come back from apple-picking or the high-school football game. (Hat tip here to the good folks at Jim Koch's Sam Adams Brewery... keeping it local.)
This serves two as a meal.
2-3 large yellow onions - halved and sliced
1 clove of garlic
1 small bunch of spinach leaves
1 tsp celery seed
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 can of low fat and sodium beef broth
1/2 bottle of beer (Sam Adams Octoberfest is out now...)
Extra virgin olive oil & 1 Tsp of Butter
Salt and pepper to taste
2 slices of fresh mozzarella (or cheese of your choice)
2 slices of French baguette (or bread of your choice)
In a sauce pan or soup pot, add a light coating of olive oil and the butter. Place it over medium heat. Add the onions to the pot and let them sweat while occasionally stirring. The secret to Onion soup is really MELTING the onions down, stirring and caramelizing over medium heat. Take your time - the aroma in the kitchen will be worth it. Once the onions are light brown and almost translucent in appearance, add the chopped garlic, celery seed, paprika and cayenne pepper (greens like spinach benefit from a little heat.) Continue stirring and cooking for several more minutes to let the flavors really bloom.
Add the beef broth. Stir in the broth while also scraping at the bottom to deglaze the pot. Add at least half of the bottle of beer (and drink the rest - Julia Child would approve.) Add some fresh ground black pepper and salt to taste (although I use very little salt as the broth already carries a fair amount.) Get the soup up to a boil and then reduce the heat back to just a simmer. Leave it uncovered for fifteen minutes to a half hour so it can reduce down. Add the spinach to the pot about 5 minutes before you take it off the heat.
A couple of points: First, it's fine to eat after 20 - 30 minutes of simmering but I think covering it and letting it simmer longer just infuses more flavor in the soup. Second, you can add the soup to oven safe bowls and leave room for a slice of toasted baguette with a cover of cheese. If you choose to go this route then place them on the top rack of the oven and broil until the cheese melts and starts to bubble.