With free time finally returning to my schedule, I decided to spend an afternoon finding a soul- and palate-satisfying recipe to replace the drab peanut butter and jelly sandwiches which have accompanied me to work over the past six months. And, despite the hot and sticky weather that’s been plaguing central PA recently, I found myself craving the sweet, historic tang of French onion soup. French onion has always been a favorite of mine, as it so exquisitely satisfies my love for root vegetables, melted cheese, and recipes designed by the ancient Greeks.
Although France didn’t quite exist when onion soups first debuted on the world stage, the use of fried/caramelized onions in soups eventually spread to the Anglo-Saxon and Gallic regions of pre-modern Europe, where they quickly became incorporated into the working-man’s repertoire of hearty, inexpensive sops. It’s important to note that a sop is far more than an apparent misspelling of “soup;” and, it is, in fact, an entirely different dish altogether! While the star attraction of a soup is the liquid and what’s incorporated into it, the whole point of a sop is the large hunk of (usually) crusty bread that gets plopped right in the center of a bowl of broth (which then “sops” up the soup!). The sop tradition carried through European time and space to eventually influence the great French chefs cuisiniers of the 17 century, who expertly combined their unmatched onion broths with large chunks of toasted French bread and inspired countless generations of future chefs to do the same.
Now, you may be wondering why I’m going on about French onion soup when we’re actually making Irish onion soup. And my answer to that is that we are, in fact, continuing the tradition of French onion, but with a slightly modern twist. Thanks to the ingenuity of The Beeroness, I’ve been inspired to try swapping out the white wine usually simmered into a classic French onion soup with a dark stout. Since the original onion soups of antiquity were concocted by the working class, this slight alteration seemed more fitting (and delicious!) than irreverent. So, let’s dig in!
Irish Onion Soup Recipe
- 6 Tablespoons butter
- 2 pounds of white onions (about 3 medium sized onions)
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 12 ounce bottle of stout
- 2 cups stock (beef or vegetable)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- French bread or croutons
- 1 cup of shredded or sliced cheese (Gruyère is traditional, but a wide variety of easily melted cheeses will work)
- Peel and slice your onions into thin, 1/4″ rings.
- In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat and then add the onions, brown sugar, and salt. Mix well and let simmer for at least 50 minutes to 1 hour (trust me, the longer you let your onions cook, the sweeter and more caramelized they’ll be in the end). Stir onions every occasionally to ensure that they cook evenly without burning.
- When the onions have caramelized, stir in 1/2 cup of the stout and let simmer over medium heat until the beer dissipates and the pot is nearly dry.
- Pour in the remaining beer, stock, and black pepper. Return to a simmer and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Turn on your oven’s broiler; ladle the soup into oven-safe crocks; and top each crock with some French bread and cheese.
- Place prepared crocks under the broiler just until the cheese has melted.
- Serve and enjoy a modern twist on some delicious history!
As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s kitchen excavation! I hope you’ll stop by next time as we dig into the breadier side of French cuisine!