Snow is finally falling, the temperature is dropping, January hibernation is kicking in and all of this calls for one thing…soup! My creamy coconut soup was perfect for summer, butternut squash soup for the fall, but now I wanted a wintery soup to keep me warm on these bitterly cold nights. French onion soup has always been my absolute favorite. The deeply flavored soup with bread soaking into it and cheese melting on top is irresistible. So to create some comfort this winter, I developed my own spin on the classic dish.
I start with a medley of different onions to give lots of variety to the soup. I sauté sweet, red and green onions together along with leeks. Leeks aren’t technically onions, but they come from the same family…so close enough! They have a mild onion flavor and I love their texture in this soup. Other flavors such as garlic, thyme and bay add depth to the soup while Worcestershire adds a wonderfully rich complexity. Just a touch of Dijon mustard goes a long way. The peppery, acidic bite from the mustard is a perfect match for the pretzel roll croutons (I’ll get to those later).
While the flavors are melding with the onions, I make a roux. Roux is simply a mixture of fat and flour usually used to thicken sauces or soups. It’s important to cook the raw flour taste out of the roux, so I cook it until it’s brown and nutty smelling. I loosen the roux with a little chicken stock before adding it to the soup along with more chicken stock. Once the liquid comes to a boil, I simmer it to let everything come together. A little heavy cream turns the soup silky and the perfect amount of seasoning brings out all of the other flavors. While the soup is delicious just as is, what makes it even better are little crispy croutons covered in cheese floating on top.
Pretzel rolls are buttery and salty, the perfect contrast to a creamy soup. I love using pretzel rolls for sandwiches or burgers, but I had no idea they would taste so good fried up as croutons. They become crispy after sizzling in hot oil for a couple of minutes and the buttery taste intensifies. When the croutons are hot, I top them with Parmesan so it slightly melts. I use the croutons as a garnish for the soup, but I also like to leave them on the side and dunk them in. Now you just need a sprinkle of chives, a large spoon, and a cozy fire to enjoy this soup all winter long.
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1 ½ lbs sliced sweet onions
- 1 ½ lbs sliced red onions
- 10 oz sliced leeks (see Kayla’s notes)
- 8 oz sliced green onions
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ oz chopped garlic
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 oz flour
- 2 qts chicken stock
- 1 pt heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 2 large pretzel rolls
- 1 ½ cups safflower oil
- 1 oz shredded Parmesan cheese
- chopped chives, to garnish
- In a large pot, melt the stick of butter over medium-high heat. Add the sweet onions, red onions, leeks, green onions, salt and pepper. Lower the heat to medium and sauté the vegetables until soft, about 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat and whisk in the flour. Brown the roux until it has deepened in color and smells nutty, whisking often. To the soup pot, add the garlic, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, and bay leaves. Cook another minute or two. Slowly add 1 cup of the chicken stock to the roux and whisk to incorporate. Add the roux mixture plus the remaining 7 cups of chicken stock to the soup pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer the soup for 20 minutes before stirring in the heavy cream and remaining salt and pepper. Serve warm.
- Slice the pretzel rolls into thin slices, about ⅜ of an inch each. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the pretzel roll slices in an even layer. Do not overcrowd the pan (you might have to work in batches). Cook the croutons for just a minute or two on each side until golden brown. Transfer the croutons to a paper towels and immediately sprinkle each one with the shredded Parmesan cheese.
- Serve the soup with a couple of pretzel roll croutons on top. Garnish with the chives.
- Leeks are full of dirt and must be cleaned well. I first slice off the roots as well as the darker green ends. Then, I slice the leeks into circles and add them to a colander, making sure to separate each slice into its layers since that is where most of the dirt will be. I run them under colder water and use my hands to agitate them in order to get all of the dirt out. Once dried, they are ready for the soup.