Frying onions is the start of so many good recipes. I feel like the smell triggers something in us – any human noses in the area will perk up and come searching for the source of the heavenly smell. Onion soup is a simple way to concentrate the flavor and smell and allows us to keep enjoying them for days. After having beer onion soup at a restaurant a few months ago I decided to try making it at home, and it seems that the addition of a dark beer adds color, character and depth to the soup.
For years I made onion soup that was tasty, but was not quite there – it lacked something. A few years ago a friend alerted me to the secret, clearly spelled out in Martha Stewart’s recipe: the slower one fries the onions, the better. Unfortunately, so many recipes online seem to get onion soup wrong: they add additional ingredients that dilute the onion flavor, or call for frying the onions too fast, missing out on the lovely caramelized onions that slower frying produces. Read below how to do it right.
Dark Beer Onion Soup
7 medium onions
1 large stout beer (I used a 650ml bottle of Steamworks Oatmeal Stout)
1 liter or just over 2 pints of vegetable or chicken stock
1 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp butter
salt and pepper
Optional: bread and cheese
1. Slice the onions thinly – really try to avoid any large pieces. This is an admittedly painful step, although as a bonus your tear ducts will get a good cleaning. It helps to cool down the onions in the fridge or freezer, and some people swear by the swimming goggle method. One can do this in a food processor, but I find that the result always seems less good – invariably the onions get a bit bashed up.
2. Place the onions in a large based pot with the butter, brown sugar, and a few shakes of salt. Cover, and place on the lowest heat of your stove for at least half an hour. This step sweats the onions, releasing their juices without frying them. After the initial phase, turn the stove a little higher and stir the onions occasionally, still with the cover on. Patience is key here: the slower you do this part, the better the end result will be. After 45 minutes to an hour, uncover the pot and turn the stove to medium, frying the onions slowly until they are soft and golden and fully caramelized (they should smell wonderful). Try not to stir them too often, this will help them to caramelize, but make sure you don’t burn them.
3. Add the beer, stir well to get the onions off the bottom of the pot, and let simmer until most of the beer has evaporated. Then add the stock and simmer for at least half an hour. The soup will probably be too thick at this point, so add some water. I often blend part of the soup at this stage and add it back to the pot, so that the final result is less chunky.
4. Optional: toast some slices of bread, top with grated cheese and place under the broiler for a few minutes until fully melted and starting to brown. Then serve the soup with a slice of toast in each bowl. I prefer this method to placing the bowls themselves in the oven, which is more cumbersome and results in very soggy bread.