Tag Archives: soup

Crock Pot Carmelized Onion Soup

2 Feb

Reason #8,571 to own a crock pot:

Okay I know this is waaaaay too close. I only took one photo and I was zoomed in waaaaay too much. But you get the idea. It was lovely.

Onion soup.

Not just any onion soup.  The most awesome, incredible onion soup ever.   And one of the easiest things you’ll ever make.

There are really only two ingredients you really need.  Onions and your crock pot.

Oh, this soup has a few more.  But you can make really beautiful carmelized onions just by throwing them in your crock pot and cooking them on low until they’re brown and soft and sweet.

Just cut them up.  Thin is best.  If you’ve got a mandoline slicer, this is the time to use it.  Just be sure to use a guard and a cutproof glove, please.  You don’t need to make a trip to Urgent Care.  Take it from my firsthand experience, it’s not a fun way to spend an evening.

Anyway, you want strips or rings.  Sorry, I don’t have any photos of any of this.  But use your imagination.  🙂

Pile them into the crock pot.  As tightly as you can.  In my large oval shaped pot I can fit about 5 onions’ worth.  It only takes an extra few minutes to cut the raw onions, but I highly recommend making as many carmelized onions at once as you can, because they freeze really well.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Push the onions down and make room for more.  When you can’t fit any more, add a sprinkling of salt.  I usually use just about a teaspoon for 5 onions.  It’s not really to salt them so much as it is to draw the water out of them, so you can skip this step if you want.  I also usually add a tablespoon of butter.  Not for any really good reason, except that I think that the butter compliments the velvety texture of the cooked onions.

Put the top on the crock pot and turn it on low.

Leave it for at least 6 hours.  Overnight is even better.

This last batch I left on low for about 18 hours.

It would take a lot for the onions – which are mostly water – to dry out.  So don’t be afraid of them burning unless you leave them all day and all night (I have done this once.  Not with onions.  With meat.  When I woke up in the morning it looked like a hockey puck.  Not the best way to start the day!).

When you turn off your crock pot, you should have beautiful deeply brown soft onions swimming in lovely onion broth.

Whatever you do, don’t throw this broth away.  It’s heavenly.

Unless you’re making the whole pot into onion soup, I suggest draining the onions and freezing the broth in individual ice cube trays.  That way you can add a little brothy onion goodness into other soups or rice dishes or just about anything you can think of.  You can use the onions themselves on top of pizza or in sandwiches.  They freeze remarkably well and are awesome to have around.

But you can take it one step further.

If you were, say, to take about 1 1/2 cups of the onion broth, 1/2 cup of the onions, and 1/2 cup of beef stock, and warm those through, and then to toast up some slices of baguette with provolone on the top, (slightly stale bread is even better than fresh in this instance) and put it all together, you’d have two bowls of this.

Sweet, oniony, velvety onion soup.  That tastes like onions instead of broth and salt.  That is satisfying and filling without being heavy.  That is just plain awesome.

Dear Crockpot:  You rock.



27 Oct

Have you ever thought about how many cultural variations there are on chicken soup?  From Mexican Tortilla Soup to Japanese Udon, it seems like every great cuisine has a soup recipe for those cold breezy days when you’re not feeling quite like yourself.  Some researchers claim that chicken soup contains compounds that actually help speed up the healing process when you’ve got a bug.

My grandmother always used to make us tortellini soup – steaming bowls of her homemade pork-and-veal-filled belly button-shaped tortellini with her incredible paper-thin pasta, full of warm nutmeg flavor and topped with handfuls of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  I have yet to make the tortellini on my own – her recipe is somewhere at my grandfather’s house and no one has had a chance to really look for it – but I’ve found a suitable replacement at Vons (chicken and prosciutto borsetti – my uncle says that my grandma’s secret ingredient was prosciutto and, after tasting these the first time I had to agree it probably was).  Every time I have a hard day, I crave her tortellini soup.

When we were sick, growing up, my mom would make plain chicken broth with alphabets, or pastina, or cream of wheat (try it – just use the recipe on the back of the box, with 1/3 of the cream of wheat in proportion to the liquid – it works really nicely to help fortify an upset stomach).

In college, I was introduced to Thai and Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine, which all have beautiful chicken soups.  Last year, my friend Shera shared her homemade matzo ball soup with me, and I can see why it’s known as Jewish penecillin.  Chock full of veggies and herbs, it’s like a great big hug.  I’ve experimented with making my own matzo ball soup, and it’s not too tricky (especially with the Shera-approved matzo mix!), but it’s definitely labor-intensive.

Matzo ball soup 001

A big pot of Jewish penecillin... Yum...


Today I stayed home from work.  Two nights ago I started feeling really weak and achy, and all day yesterday I was so exhausted I could barely keep my eyes open (despite sleeping a crazy number of hours the night before).  I made it through the workday by the skin of my teeth, but when I woke up this morning I was just as weak and tired and achy, with the addition of a headache, sour stomach, sniffles, and a little cough.  I decided it was definitely better to take one day and get better now than struggle through the week and have a lingering sickness!  I’ve been napping all day, drinking loads of orange juice, taking vitamins and Oscillococcinum, and trying to get myself well.

Of course I wanted chicken soup.  I was craving chicken soup!

The leftover soup from last week is actually in the freezer for just such an occasion, but I wanted something different.  I flirted briefly with the idea of making an abbreviated matzo (chicken broth + matzo balls) but I decided on pho.

Pho is a Vietnamese noodle soup.  It’s typically made with beef and there are entire menus devoted to pho variations, but I’ve always really liked the chicken version.  It’s what I love to order at Vietnamese restaurants.  My “homemade” pho used just what I had on-hand, so it wasn’t very authentic, but it hit the spot.  It was garlicky and gingery and slightly spicy and so awesome.  It really felt almost as restorative as a big ol’ bowl of matzo ball soup, which is a high compliment!  It was so incredibly yummy and so pretty that I had to share.

My White Girl Pantry Pho

  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water (I always think of the pho broth as a little lighter than regular chicken broth – if I’d made my own broth, I probably wouldn’t have added water, but I really liked the slightly-lightened-up broth in this)
  • A piece of fresh ginger – I used quite a lot, approx. 3/4 inch square – grated or cut really fine
  • 2 large cloves garlic, cut very fine or put through a garlic press
  • A small piece of yellow, red, or white onion, cut into paper-thin slices (I think I used about 2 tbsp worth)
  • 2 tsp soy sauce (you’re supposed to use fish sauce – but of course I didn’t have any…  strange that it’s the second time in a week that I should have used some in a recipe; when I had some in the pantry it went unused for years!)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • dash ground pepper
  • dash Chinese five spice powder (okay, I know…  you’re supposed to toast up coriander seeds and anise…  I looked it up…  But I have neither in the house because I actually don’t like either, on a regular basis, so I improvised…  I was a little worried, to be honest, because Chinese five spice is pretty sweet, but I was pretty excited because it actually did give the broth a little anise flavor that I think I might have missed)
  • handful cooked shredded chicken (it’s so nice to have this in the freezer for just such an occasion!)
  • 1/4 package rice stick noodles
  • 1 green onion, cut into rings
  • a small bunch of basil, chiffonade (you could also use mint or parsley, or cilantro if it works for you – it makes me sick, so even though it’s actually the traditional accompaniment I don’t use it)
  • I didn’t have bean sprouts but they’re traditional in this soup too!

In a small saucepan, bring the broth, water, garlic, ginger, pepper, five spice,soy sauce, lime juice, and regular onion to a simmer.  Add the rice sticks and cook until tender.  Add chicken to bring up to temperature.  Serve in a large bowl topped by green onion, herbs, (and bean sprouts).  The broth is flavorful, and while it’s not authentic pho, it was sure a welcome bowl of goodness!  Here’s hoping it helps me get better fast!

soup 006

White Girl Pho

Tuscan White Bean and Sausage Soup

22 Oct

Last night I made dinner to bring to my friend Chrystal.  She and her hubby just had a beautiful baby!  I wasn’t planning to blog about it, but since I made extra for our dinner and since it was SO totally yummy (and since I haven’t had time to write the posts I’d been planning…  sorry), I thought I’d do a quick post with the recipe.

You can do this sort of soup a million different ways, adding or subtracting things as you go.  In fact, I added a few more pantry items to our soup when we ate it than I’d added to Chrystal’s soup when I brought it over; I’ve updated the recipe as such.  I’ve had white bean and sausage soup a lot of places, but this recipe was something I came up with a few years back.  Parts of it are a riff on Italian Wedding Soup, but it’s not like any recipe for that soup I’ve ever seen.  It’s a nice light-tasting soup, but it’s a good meal in itself!

If I’m making a big pot of soup, I try to pick up a whole chicken at the grocery store and make my own stock.  The night before (or early in the day, if you’ve got time), I cut up the chicken and toss it in a pot of water.  I used about 5 gallons of water, a tablespoon of light salt, a small onion (halved, not cut – and with the brown peel still on, since it actually helps the broth take on a nice golden color), a handful of baby carrots, two stalks of celery (also pretty much whole), and three or four whole cloves of garlic with a pinch of pepper and herbs.  The pot should be on a relatively low heat – it should steam, but there should be NO BUBBLES!  Let it go for an hour to an hour and a half.

Remove the chicken pieces and let them cool, and remove all the vegetables (throw them away or compost them; they’ve done all they can).  Bring the pot up to a rolling boil and let the liquid reduce for about 20 minutes before skimming and cooling.

I do this step the night before if I can because if you let the whole thing cool in the fridge you can skim a lot of the fat off the top of the pan.  It’s not mandatory to do so, but I am not a big fan of greasy-tasting broth, so I like to.


I also like to make my own sausage meatballs (although you can use packaged sausage; I like the sweet Italian from Whole Foods).  It’s super-easy to do and you can control what goes into it.  I use one package of ground turkey from the supermarket (it’s about a pound) and some ground herbs.  I don’t really have a recipe – I just throw things in until it feels and smells good – but I think it’s about 2 teaspoons each of dehydrated garlic, lemon pepper, basil, and parsley, with a pinch of paprika.  To that, I add an egg and a quarter cup of panko breadcrumbs (I find that using them helps keep the meatballs from being heavy).  For soup, I shape the meatballs into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces so that they’re bite-sized.

The next day, assemble your soup:

  • 4 gallons of chicken broth or stock (Pacific Organics makes a really good chickeny-tasting broth that has a lot less salt than other broths; since there’s a lot of flavor in the ingredients, you don’t really want the broth salty)
  • 1 small onion, cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 ribs celery, cut into small pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, cut into small pieces (or a good handful of baby carrots!)
  • 1 medium parsnip, cut into small pieces
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, cut into very small pieces
  • 1 package of small pasta (anything bite-sized – I usually use about 6 servings’ worth and I like orzo or orichiette, but you can really use any shape that’s fun)
  • The meatballs made above, or 3-4 links of your favorite sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cans of white beans, rinsed and drained (I’ve cooked dry beans once for this purpose but really it’s a pain; don’t forget to rinse them really well, though!)
  • Some of the chicken you poached in the broth, shredded
  • 2 small tomatoes, cut up (or a can of good diced tomatoes, drained)
  • two or three bunches of basil, chiffonade (I like adding fresh parsley if I’ve got it, too; or if you prefer you can use any combination of those herbs and spinach or kale)
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • a nice sprinkling of fresh parmesan cheese

First, bring the broth up to a simmer.  Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and parsnip and cook about 10-15 minutes.  Add the pasta and cook until there are about 5 minutes left (since every type of pasta has a different cooking time, you’ll need to check your own).  Add the meatballs or sausage and cook another 5 minutes.  The meatballs will float to the top.

In the bowls you’ll be eating from, add some cooked chicken, beans, and tomatoes.  Pour the soup over the top.  Add a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice and sprinkle your leafy greens over the top.  Top with parmesan cheese!  Stir before taking a big bite, but not until after you’ve taken a photo because it’s just too pretty!

It's tasty and beautiful!

It's tasty and beautiful!

I like how all the flavors act subtlely together, and how versatile this soup is (don’t have tomatoes?  don’t use them!  don’t like basil?  use spinach instead!  don’t like beans?  leave them out!).  The tiny bit of lemon juice helps brighten the whole thing up – and trust me, it doesn’t taste lemony.  Using a mild broth (chicken-flavored rather than salty) helps each of the different components of the soup stand out on its own, and using ingredients that play nicely together helps the flavors come together and create a completely new dish.  Since you’re pouring the hot broth over the prepared ingredients (you could also, in theory, cook the meatballs and pasta separately too), you’re able to control the amounts of each of the ingredients you have in your bowl – and customize them for a picky palate.

Almost all gone

Almost all gone

Mmmm…  And now I’m hungry, and wishing I had a big bowl in front of me!


Edited to add: Apparently I forgot I made a variation on this soup and posted it back in May.  Oh well, you can see how awesome it is, that I make it often and in different ways!

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