CREAMY RED ONION SOUP with THYME
by Sur La Table with Janet Fletcher
The slender, elongated Torpedo red onions harvested in early summer are especially mild and sweet, perfect for salads, sandwiches, and soups such as this one. Because they are high in moisture, they don't store well, so use them within a couple of weeks. Vicki Westerhoff at Genesis Growers cultivates the prized Tropea variety, a red heirloom from the southern Italian region of Calabria. Like Torpedo, Tropea is a mellow onion that would shine in this soup as well. The sharp, salty flavor of pecorino helps to balance the onions' sweetness, so it's a better choice here than Parmigiano Reggiano.
• 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the bread
• 3 pounds sweet red onions, preferably Torpedo type, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
• 3 cloves garlic, sliced
• Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
• 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
• 1½ quarts chicken broth (if canned, use equal parts broth and water), plus more if needed
• 8 baguette slices, about 1/2 inch thick, sliced at a 45-degree angle
• 1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
• 3 tablespoons minced fresh Italian parsley
1. Put the olive oil in a large pot over moderate heat. Add the onions and garlic and stir to coat them with the oil. Season well with salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions become very soft and creamy, about 1 hour. They will throw some liquid at first, but after the liquid evaporates, they will begin to caramelize. Lower the heat if the onions threaten to stick to the bottom of the pan.
2. Just before the onions are ready, prepare a moderately hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium-high (375° to 400°F).
3. When the onions are ready, add the thyme and flour and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Then add the broth and bring to a simmer, stirring: Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes to blend the flavors. Season with pepper and more salt if needed.
4. To give the soup extra body, puree about 2 cups of it (broth and onions) in a food processor or blender until smooth, then stir the puree back into the soup.
5. Brush the baguette slices on both sides with olive oil. Grill the bread on both sides directly over the coals or gas flame until golden brown.
6. Reheat the soup to serve. Divide it among warmed soup bowls. Float a grilled baguette slice on each portion, and sprinkle each slice with 1 tablespoon grated cheese. Garnish with the parsley. Serve immediately.