This five onion soup includes five types onions (obviously 😀 ) and different tasty bits and bobs: celeriac, bacon and mushrooms! The finishing touch on a warming bowl of onion soup is a crispy crunchy cheese toast!
Every time I say soup season, I think of Looney tunes. Duck season, rabbit season… soup season!!! Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck aside, soup season will always be the winner in my books! And funny enough, soup season seems to last all year around – it’s just the style of the soup that changes!
During the cold time of the year, soup season means onion soup to me. When the thermometer hits those minus degrees and my cheeks get frostbites, it’s time to shed a few tears around a kilo of onions and make some sweet and hearty onion soup!
I’ve had a soft spot for the classic French onion soup ever since my au pair days in Paris as an 18-year old, but I rarely make onion soup quite à la française. Instead i love to add things like miso paste and fish sauce, and throw in little bursts of flavor like roasted celeriac, mushrooms or bacon!
Don’t get me wrong, French onion soup is DIVINE. It’s just that I can’t seem to be able to top the memory of that French onion soup I had in Paris as an 18 year old! So I rarely bother to even try. I have simply decided to veer away from the classic onto my own onion soup path!
Onions and umami
My five onion soup today is therefore not an attempt at the classic. I’ve seasoned the broth with a few anchovies for an extra umami kick and some funk, and have hidden several tasty treats in the soup. Sauteed cubes of celeriac, button mushrooms and some organic bacon to be exact! Flavor is amped up with a splash of dry sherry and lots of garlic, and the onion soup is finally topped off with crispy cheese toasts that soak up the broth like a sponge.
When making onion soup, my “secret” is to cut the onion two ways. When onion is cut against its grain, the caramelized slices tend to almost melt into the soup, thickening it to this hearty delicious concoction we all love. When cut along the grain, the slices stay a bit more intact as they cook, which makes for a nice addition to the other bits and bobs I throw in to this soup.
Five onion soup
I usually use mainly yellow onion to my onion soups, but this time I had a massive amount of all kinds of onions laying around the house. Why not throw them all into the pot? I ended up having a mix of yellow, red and silver onion as well as shallots and garlic. I can’t say the flavor of this five onion soup would be radically different from onion soup made with just one type. But it was good, and I plan to make use of a more broad variety of onions in my onion soups also in the future!
After making this five onion soup a few times I actually did a search for onion soup with different onion types. Low and behold, it seems that a “five onion soup” is often referred to as “English onion soup”. (If you’re English and disagree, please let me know! I’m at the mercy of internet here and have never had onion soup in England…)! Not surprisingly, the masterminds at Serious Eats have also already made a comparison test between different types of onions in caramelized form. So in case you are curious about using different types of onions in onion soup, check this post out!
In an ideal situation, onion soup would be made with homemade stock, be it a classic French style or not. This soup is made of mainly onions and stock, so the stock better be good!
I actually love making stocks and broths! (What’s the difference by the way? In Finnish the translation is the same: liemi.) I just haven’t had the time nor the energy as of late… Thank you global pandemic! Instead I’ve been using locally made stock tetras, which have lately emerged in the Finnish grocery stores. They are of good quality here and I see nothing wrong using them! To be totally honest, I could even see myself occasionally using good quality organic stock cubes as well. I mean, if life is shitty and onion soup can make it sweeter, I’d rather make it from stock cubes than not make it at all!
If life is shitty and onion soup can make it sweeter, I’d rather make it from stock cubes than not make it at all!
Yes. One should use beef stock to make the classic French onion soup. Yes yes, yes – I know! And that makes for a wonderful onion soup of course! However, I was a vegetarian for most of my adult years, so I see absolutely no problem making onion soup with veggie stock (or garlic broth!). It all comes down to personal taste, doesn’t it? My recipe below is made with that store bought organic Finnish beef stock, but you can easily make the recipe vegetarian by swapping to a veggie one. Or, opt for home made beef stock (and if you do, I will applaud thee!)
The bacon in the recipe can be subbed with a plant based sausage fried to crispy little tasty bits. And what about the anchovy? Just leave it out and replace with a spoonful of mellow white or yellow miso paste at the end.
FIVE ONION SOUP:
- large pot
- large frying pan
- 1 kg onions (a mix of yellow, red, silver onions and shallots - you can add in some leeks too)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 whole head of garlic
- 1 tsp sugar
- ½-1 tsp black pepper (freshly ground)
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 150 g button mushrooms
- 100 g celeriac
- 150 g organic bacon (or plant based sausage of your liking)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3-4 anchovies (or approximately 1 tsp fish sauce OR ∼ 1 tbsp miso paste)
- 1 tbsp all purpose flour + 2 tbsp water
- 1 dl dry sherry (I usually go for amontillado)
- 1¼ liters of beef stock (or chicken, or veggie stock...)
- 3 bay leafs
- bread (to your liking)
- cheese (to your liking)
- I recommend at least 2 cheese toasts per serving and personally enjoy homemade sourdough loaf with gruyere, raclette or mature emmenthaler in this context. I also usuallly enjoy grilling the cheese toast to a crisp so the toast is easier to handle and dunk in the soup, but sometimes nothing beats an oozing grilled cheese with onion soup. To each their own!
- Peel and slice half of the onion lenghtwise, half widthwise. Peel the cloves of one garlic and thinly slice half of the cloves. Save the rest of the cloves for later.
- Cube the bacon, button mushrooms and celeriac to a fine dice (approximately 5x5mm) and leave aside for the moment.
- Drizzle 3 tbsp olive oil at the bottom of a large frying pan. Add in the onions along with a pinch of salt. Start heating the pan to medium heat and sautee the onions until soft and translucent.Add in a pinch of sugar and keep caramelizing the onions, scraping the pan as they take on color to prevent the bottom layer from burning. At the end of this process, you are practically stirring and scraping the pan constantly. Keep caramelizing the onion until it's deeply browned, soft, jammy and sweet! This can take up to 50-60 minutes. Trying to speed up the process by cranking up the heat may result with burnt onions - I don't recommend doing that!
- Making the onion soup:
- While the onion caramelizes, sautee the cubed bacon, celeriac and mushrooms in 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot. Once you have gotten good color on the cubes, add in the slices garlic and keep sauteeing while stirring, until the garlic is soft and has a touch of color. Take the pot off from the heat while the onion finishes caramelizing.
- Once the onions are deeply caramelized, scrape them to the pot and cover everything with stock. Deglaze your frying pan with sherry, scarping all the flavors from the bottom of the pan to the sherry. Dump the sherry to the pot and bring the soup to a boil.
- Grate the remaining garlic cloves to the soup, and season the soup with bay leaves, thyme, black pepper and anchovies. Lower the temperature so that the soup is simmering calmly, and allow to simmer under a lid for around 15 minutes.
- Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. To thicken the soup sligthly, make a slurry of flour and water and stir it in. Keep simmering the soup for 5 more minutes, stirring it a few times to cook the flour. Serve with your crispy grilled cheese toasts on the side or dunked in the soup!