I like my soup to be full of good stuff and generally shy away from smooth or creamy soups. So this is totally my kind of winter warming bowl: lots of flavor from the slow cooked onions and lots of yummy broth to slurp it up in! That said, I wanted to make mine feel a bit more substantial in itself, rather than the usual non-Paleo cheese-topped version, so I left the onions nice and chunky. If you want something with a little less bite per mouthful, you can slice your onions much more finely. It will probably save you on some caramelization time, too.
Speaking of time, this is a recipe which needs a little bit of it, even if it doesn’t need too much attention. Caramelizing the onions is a slow process and can’t be rushed since that’s where all the flavor comes from. Especially if you’re making this with a vegetable / vegetarian stock. So, don’t skimp. Save this Paleo French Onion Soup recipe for a weekend; start in the morning. Leave yourself plenty of time so that you don’t feel like you’re having to force the soup to life! Method-wise this is really simple – unless you’re like me and are currently lacking a dutch oven or pan large enough to make soup in AND caramelize all the onions. You’ll notice in the pictures that I switch pans a few times: that’s just so that I can get the onions caramelizing in a non-nonstick pan. Ooooh, kitchen double negative!
So, first slice your onions. I kept mine about a 1/4 inch thick, but make yours thinner if you wish! Add these to your pan with some oil and cover the pan. Add your seasonings here – I used some fresh thyme. This is going to steam down the onions over about 20 – 30 minutes so that they lose a little bulk before getting to the coloring stages.
Here you’ll see I had to switch pans to a stainless steel skillet: if you started in a large dutch oven-type pan, you don’t need to do this! Here I transferred the contents of the pan to the skillet so that they could begin to caramelize. And after about 30 minutes, this is what they looked like.
I left my pan doing it’s thing without really moving the onions around too often, maybe peeking in every 30 minutes or so… as long as the onions aren’t beginning to blacken at any point, you can leave them unsupervised until the end, really. This is them after another half an hour.
In the last half an hour, you’re going to want to keep a closer eye, stirring every few minutes if possible. And finally, after about 90 minutes of caramelizing, you have these delicious butterscotch-colored onions. Shiny!
And, yes, I moved pans again. Making soup in a skillet = no bueno. But, like I said, you don’t have to! One day I’ll be a grown up with a fully equipped kitchen! At this point, I added a splash of stock to release the fond on the bottom of the pan, then added the juice of half a lime (to give some acidity instead of using wine) and a smattering of tomato paste for a little extra umami. Then I added more stock and set my little pot to simmering. I left mine for another hour or so, to darken up and round out all the flavors. And that’s it! Slow in time, easy in technique =)
- Add oil, onions and thyme to a pan over low heat and cover with lid; steam for about 20 - 30 minutes or until onions reduce down.
- Remove pan lid and continue to cook for approximately 90 minutes; check every 30 minutes or so, until the last 30 minutes when the onions will need stirring more often to avoid black bits or burning.
- When the onions are a deep all over butterscotch color, add the tomato paste.
- Use a splash of stock to deglaze the pan, then add the rest of the stock before simmering over low heat for an hour.
- Make sure soup is heated through thoroughly and serve.
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