This story is about soup, but it begins with a McDonald’s.
For weeks now, the McDonald’s a mile or so away from my apartment had had the same message on its signboard: Try our grilled onion cheddar sandwich - $1. Though McDonald’s holds very little appeal for me (veggie options in India aside!), I had to admit that the grilled onion-cheddar sandwich was intriguing. It lingered at the back of my mind for weeks, in fact.
And then I bought five or so pounds of onions. And then Daiya cheese was on sale at the co-op, and I felt compelled to try the garlic-jalapeño Havarti-style wedge that everyone raves about. And then I realized that I had all the components for something very like a grilled onion-cheddar sandwich.
Instead of grilling my onions, though, I caramelized them. Caramelized onions are (ahem, were
) one of my few real culinary nemeses. It’s not that they always come out burnt or inconsistently cooked (though that’s certainly the case sometimes!), but I have never managed to make them perfect, with that mellow, deep sweetness that’s the sign of a perfectly caramelized onion.
Until this time. Armed with a battery of tips from this handy article
and a brand-new non-stick pan that replaced our flaking old one, I can proudly say, without a hint of braggadocio or untruth, that I caramelized the shit out of those onions
. They were soft yet crispy, a marvel of kitchen science and patience. And they were pretty damn amazing with melted Daiya on slices of seedy whole-grain bread. (By the way, that Havarti-style Daiya is THE BEST vegan cheese I’ve ever tasted. It’s the only kind I’d ever consider eating on its own, on crackers or something. It’s a sometimes-food, but I wholly recommend it if you’re interested in actually-good vegan cheese.)
Back to the onions. Now that I’d conquered caramelization, my mind was flooded with a tidal wave of ideas for how to harness the rich flavor of these sweet, tender onions. I began to suspect that they’d make a wonderful flavor base for a rich, creamy soup, and was I ever right. Please – do yourself a favor one chilly winter night and spend a little time at the stove, tending your slowly softening onions and stirring a pot of tender golden potatoes in a simple broth. Then blend them together – my brand-new immersion blender did the trick with ease – and let this hearty soup fill all the crevices of your hungry belly.
Quick soup snap.
Creamy Caramelized Onion-Potato Soup
4 medium-sized onions, sliced into half-moons
3 medium-sized golden potatoes, diced (3/4 inch)
1 T olive oil
1 stalk celery, diced
1 med carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp savory
A dash or two of poultry spice
4 C vegetable broth
1 C unsweetened MimicCreme (or any other unsweetened nut cream, or even your non-dairy milk of choice)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
First, start caramelizing your onions. I won’t give you directions – use whatever method works for you! You don’t need them to retain their shape for this soup, so it’s okay if they reduce to a bit of a mushy mess – mine did.
After the onions have been caramelizing for about 10 minutes, add the olive oil to a stock pot and heat it on medium. Saute the celery, carrot, and garlic for about 4 – 5 minutes or until they start softening. Add the spices and give the veggies a good stir to coat them. Add the veg broth and turn up the heat to medium-high. When it starts to boil, add the potatoes and bring the soup to a full boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and keep it on a low boil for 10 – 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are softened and cooked through. Add salt and pepper and reduce the soup to a simmer.
By now, your onions should be caramelized. If they’re not, just keep the soup simmering. When they’re ready, turn off the heat under your soup and add the cream or non-dairy milk of choice to the sou,p and then add the onions. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender, in small batches and removing the cover between pulses to release heat), blend the soup to your desired consistency. I liked mine mostly creamy but with a few small chunks of veggies. You can also add more non-dairy milk or cream to reach your desired consistency. Top with freshly ground cracked pepper and enjoy with a slice of crusty bread.
What’s your favorite way to eat caramelized onions?