The night before The Dog died, I made soup. It seemed like a reasonable thing to do.
I didn’t want to leave the house to get ingredients; I didn’t want to leave him. He was asleep, mostly, and would not have known, but I would have. I poked through the cabinets and located a large bag of onions, and briefly considered making French Onion Soup Grilled Cheese, but what I really wanted was the comfort of soup. Also, it seemed like with that many onions in the house, there ought to be a way to make onion soup, even though I lacked beef broth, which I thought was a requirement.
David Tanis solved that problem, as well as another (which was very nice of him, especially given we’ve never met) – I had an abundance of half-empty bottles of red wine sitting in my fridge, waiting to be used, left over from my unfortunate jewelry party. Tanis’ onion soup draws its rich flavor from red wine, rather than beef broth, as well as from cooking the onions until a rich golden brown. It’s a real treat, yet quite simple, and even though it doesn’t bill itself as such, if you omit the cheese on the toasts, perhaps just using homemade herbed croutons, you’d have a lovely vegan meal. Tanis uses red onions in his version, but I had a bag of plain yellow onions, and they worked well.
There is something soothing about eating soup, of course, but also something soothing about making one so simple: Slice, then simmer, then savor.
- Olive oil
- 3 lbs onions, peeled, sliced ⅛-inch thick
- Salt and pepper
- 1 cup dry red wine
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 small bunch thyme, tied with string
- 8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 6 slices day-old bread, lightly toasted
- 6 ounces grated Gruyère
- 1 tsp chopped thyme
- Set 2 large, wide skillets over medium-high heat. When pans are hot, add 1 tablespoon oil and a large handful of sliced onions to each pan. Season onions with salt and pepper, then sauté, stirring occasionally, until they are a ruddy dark brown, about 10 minutes
- Transfer onions to soup pot and return pans to stove. Pour ½ cup water into each pan to deglaze it, scraping with a wooden spoon to dissolve any brown bits. Pour deglazing liquid into soup pot. Wipe pans clean with paper towel and begin again with more oil and sliced onions. Continue until all onions are used. Don’t crowd pans or onions won’t brown sufficiently.
- Place soup pot over high heat. Add wine, bay leaves, thyme bunch and garlic. Simmer rapidly for 5 minutes, then add 8 cups water and return to boil. Turn heat down to maintain a gentle simmer. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Cook for 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. (May be prepared to this point up to 2 days in advance.)
- Remove the thyme and bay leaves.
- Make the cheese toasts: Heat broiler. Place toasted bread on baking sheet. Mix grated cheese with chopped thyme and sage, along with a generous amount of pepper. Heap about 1 ounce of cheese mixture on each toast. Broil until cheese bubbles and browns slightly. Ladle soup into wide bowls and top with toast.