This is a recipe for Vidalia Onion Soup. But to make the soup, you have to know a little about a herb combination called Herbes de Provence. I use this often in my cooking. I use a combination of thyme, rosemary, savory, lavender, marjoram, basil, sage, oregano, parsley and tarragon. It is an impressive addition of flavor to any dish. I mix my own using the recipe I recently posted here.
Now for the fun part. You can take the most arrogant know-it-all cook on the planet and absolutely confuse the dickens out of them by sending them a 25 pound box of Vidalia Onions. That person will spend at least a half an hour looking at the ottoman sized box of onions muttering to anyone in earshot, “What in the hell am I going to do with 25 pounds of onions?” If the person is like me, they will recover, and start smiling with the ideas spinning in their head and start rattling off a Forrest Gump like list of onion dishes they will make: Onion rings, roasted onions, onion pico de gallo, fajitas with onions, pickled onions, onion sandwiches, let the kids play bocce ball….the list goes on. All you will need to know about Vidalias Onions can be found at www.vidaliaonions.org.
My mom loves Herbes de Provence. Of course, she has actually seen the fields of lavender in Provence. I just get my jollies sniffing a bottle of herbs. She and I have been trying to think up clever things to do with them since the day we were blessed with the recipe for Tomatoes with Herbes de Provence. My mom was also, at some point, the recipient of the giant onion box which is why she created this wonderful soup recipe to utilize almost a half of a box of the dudes.
So, she sent me the giant box of onions. I muttered for a bit and then made the amazing soup. And it truly a “win-win” recipe. You get to use the herbs, and you are half way rid of the ottoman. Onions are clearly the main ingredient of this soup. There is something wonderful about the sweetness of the onions and the one sweet potato and carrots and it marries perfectly with the herbs. I did not add one bit of salt or any other flavoring other than the Herbes de Provence and a little wonder called demi-glace (which contains sodium enough), and I cannot say that about many recipes. It is perfect just the way that it is.
Demi-glace is a super concentrated sauce base. You could probably substitute a little bullion for it, but it is not the same. Demi-glace is a painstakingly reduced sauce of chicken, veal, or beef mixed with vegetables and bouquet garni, usually. One can make this oneself and I suspect those who have the privilege of attending a French cooking school have actually made it but I don’t know anyone personally who has and I’m not going to start now. Enter Williams-Sonoma and their fancy little jar of demi-glace. Now, I will admit that the price of one jar of the stuff is shocking. But, you only use a hint of it at a time and it can be stored in the fridge for 6 months or the freezer indefinitely. It adds a refined flavor to soups and sauces that you simply cannot achieve without hours of effort otherwise. So, if you consider that each tablespoon will make every dish, soup or sauce you use it in twice as flavorful and you can stretch it over 10 to 15 dishes, it won’t make you quite as nauseated to purchase it. Sometimes you just have to pull the trigger, and considering that the last time I took my family out for mediocre pizza, it cost more than this little jar of gold, I try not to complain (too much) about the cost.
This makes enough soup for a main course for eight, or enough to warm bowl-by-bowl all weekend.
6 pounds of Vidalia Onions (either 12 large or 24 small), cut off ends, quarter lengthwise, peel
1 fresh garlic pod, separated and peeled
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, sliced in quarters
8 ounce bag of peeled baby carrots, or about 4 normal carrots (peeled)
2 small or 1 large sweet potato, peeled and rinsed, sliced ½ inch thick
4 to 6 cans of low sodium chicken broth (or one large container plus one can)
1 heaping tablespoon of chicken demi-glace
2 heaping tablespoons of Herbs-de-Provence
[No salt or pepper needed ]
Cream can be added when the soup is served or Sour Cream can be used as a condiment? I found that I liked it fine without the cream.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Throw the onions, garlic, and bell peppers into a large roasting pan. Add enough olive oil over the vegetables to lightly coat. Toss the vegetables and put the pan into oven. Roast until the onions are translucent, slightly browned, softened, and generally reduced in volume. This takes approximately 2 hours. Stir every 30 minutes to moisten the onions on top.
When the onions have about 30 minutes remaining to cook, you can start your soup base. In a large stock pot, combine the carrots, sweet potato slices, Herbs de Provence, and 3-4 cans of chicken broth (enough to more than cover). Add the chicken demi-glace. Simmer until the carrots are more than just tender. Remove the pot from the heat. This can just stand on the stove-top until the onions are ready.
When the onions, garlic, and bell peppers are roasted, put them into the stock pot with the boiled vegetables. Use a stick blender to puree mixture. I found that I had to add about two cups of broth at this point to get my stick blender to cooperate. If you have to use a regular blender, do it in batches blending no more than one half of the pitcher full at a time. Hot soups have a tendency to explode forth from a blender if there is too much in the pitcher. If you are going to serve it immediately, add as much chicken broth as necessary to bring it to a consistency that you like. Otherwise, let the soup come to room temperature and put it in the refrigerator. When you serve it, then you can add the extra broth and warm the soup gently.
If you would like to stun someone with a giant box of onions, you can order them from Stanley Farms. It is a third generation family farm in Vidalia, Georgia. My onions were gorgeous.