This morning I caught that first whiff of spring in the air. You know the one. It’s earthy and sweet, and the air has the tingle of possibility about it. I love it when the snow begins to melt and even if we do get more of the white stuff, it’s not going to last for long. Of course the days of wearing shorts and sandals are a long way off, but the most important thing is that we’re getting there. Soup weather is still very much in play, and if you’re a French Onion fan, this soup is for you! Any vessel for melted cheese always gets bonus points with me, and French Onion Soup is one
of the best there is. A couple of onions cook down quite a lot in a good glob of butter. Be sure to get them nice and brown too, scraping up all of those lovely bits from the bottom of the pot. This can take about 30 minutes, but the onions only need a nudge here and there with a spoon, so you can multitask if you like, or you can sit at the counter and drink some wine and read a book. Won’t tell which camp I’m in, you’ll have to guess. The addition of creamy white beans makes this soup a hearty affair, with bonus points given for additional fibre and protein. Can’t go wrong with that!
Beans, whether they’re dried or canned, are always in my pantry. Having them there means that soups like this are possible. I know the creamy white beans not only add loads of nutrition to this soup, but they also make it a more substantial meal which will ultimately be more satisfying. White beans are so versatile and nutritious, they’re one of the best things to have stocked in the pantry. Protein-packed and high in fibre, beans can be used in all sorts of recipes for dips and spreads, stews and chili, salads and pasta, heck even smoothies and brownies! Ontario is a hub of bean production in Canada, with over 1200 farmers growing eight types of beans. Most of
these (80-90%) will be exported around the world. Beans are super rich in a variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, and they’re inexpensive to buy. Beans check all of the boxes. And they taste so good! For this soup, you can either cook your own white kidney beans or navy beans, or you can use canned. For more information on beans, and more delicious recipes take a look here.
When it comes to serving this soup, you can use those classic French Onion Soup bowls. You know the ones. Maybe you received them as a wedding present in 1985 and have some tucked away in a cupboard. No oven-safe bowls? No problem, just make some cheesy toast and set it atop the soup. Regardless, French Onion is a very physical soup. You have to break through that lid of crusty cheesy goodness to get to the onions, beans, and broth. Cheese strings are pulled up and out and into the mouth while onion broth runs down the chin. Having napkins close at hand is a must.
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 2 large white onions, thinly sliced
- 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 tsp dry
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 2 (540 mL/19 0z) cans white kidney beans, drained and rinsed or 4 cups cooked white kidney or navy beans
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken, beef or vegetable broth
- Crusty sourdough or hearty whole grain loaf, sliced and toasted
- 2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
In a Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions, stirring well to evenly coat. Cover with a lid and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and quite juicy, about 10-12 minutes. Remove the lid, stir in the sugar and salt. Cook over medium-high heat until most of the liquid has evaporated, another 5-7 minutes.
Turn the heat down to medium-low and slowly caramelize the onions, stirring once in a while. This will take about 30 minutes. Be sure to give them a nudge with your spoon so they don’t stick. If they do, lower the heat a little. If the onions are starting to burn, turn down the heat. In the end, the onions should be deeply caramelized.
After the onions are caramelized, increase the heat to medium-high, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, then stir in the wine. Cook for a minute or two until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the mustard, salt, thyme, and pepper. Stir in the beans and broth, then cover and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, uncover and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.
Preheat the broiler. Ladle the soup into 4-6 oven-proof bowls and top with toasted bread that fits snugly into the bowl. Mound the cheese on top of the bread and broil until the cheese is melted, browned and gorgeous. Makes 4-6 servings.
If you don’t have oven-proof bowls, simply make some slices of cheese toast then set these atop your bowls of soup.