Kale & Caramelized Onion Soup with Garlicky Croutons
In the winter, we need cozy. That’s why soup makes an amazing dinner, day in and day out. But though this healthful soup is as easy as any weeknight meal, it’s not just any old soup. A sophisticated soul and a French heritage mean a pot is worthy of a special night. Ladle a bowl, pour a glass of wine–I like Vintners Reserve Chardonnay, rich and bright–and huddle up in front of the fireplace or a good movie.
One of the problems with soup in general is lack of variety. I’m not talking minestrone tonight and lentil tomorrow, but rather texture of a soup as a whole. I think that most soups can use a kick from something crunchy! And that’s why we’ve got croutons-Important Ingredient Number 1.
As for the French sophistication: this soup is inspired by classic French onion soup. In that dish, sliced onions caramelize for hours, until they’re sweet and rich and homey and wonderful. I’ve kept the spirit of that alchemy intact but added kale for green goodness and eliminated the cheesy part of the topping in solidarity with our New Year’s resolutions.
To make the soup, you need a couple of homemade components around, like homemade broth and caramelized onions. Fortunately, you can make both of these elements in advance, and if you do, then the soup
As for Important Ingredient Number 2, that’s wine. The same wine you’ll sip later adds body to the soup when you simmer some in as you go. It’s kind of a miracle how this works.
In sum, you sauté and caramelize vegetables and add wine and broth. While that simmers, simply crisp up bread into croutons and keep pouring wine–this time into a glass. Now let’s go get cozy.
- 1½ tablespoons butter
- 2 small onions
- Olive oil
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
- 1 head Lacinato kale, stems removed, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 4 cups chicken broth, preferably homemade
- 3 tablespoons Vintners Reserve Chardonnay
- 3-4 slices slightly stale bakery bread, cut into cubes
- Caramelize the onions: Set a heavy pan over medium heat. Add the butter and let it melt, then add the onions and cook, stirring very infrequently, until they sizzle and being to soften. Turn the flame to low, and allow the onions to slowly cook, caramelizing as they go. During this time, it is important to make sure the onions are spread as evenly as possible across the pan. Every 10 minutes or so, scrape the bottom and redistribute the onions so each gains the maximum amount of surface area. The intention is to slowly cook the onions so they sweeten in their own juices. If you stir too often, the onions will turn to mush. This process takes about 40 to 50 minutes. At the end, sprinkle the onions with salt. You can do this up to three days ahead of time. If you do, cool to room temp then store in the fridge.
- Make the kale: Heat a heavy pot with a lid over medium-high heat. Film the bottom with olive oil, then add 3 garlic cloves and the kale. If there's water clinging to the kale, that's good. If not, add a tablespoon of water. Cover the pot to let the kale cook, then uncover and stir every 3 minutes or so, until the kale is wilted. Season with salt. You can make this in advance. If you do, cool to room temperature, then store in the fridge.
- Make the soup: combine the caramelized onions, cooked kale, chicken broth, and Chardonnay in a large pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then simmer for 5 minutes to let the flavors combine and the wine cook off. Taste for salt, adding enough to let the flavors pop.
- While the soup is heating up, make the croutons: over low heat, warm about ¼ inch of oil in a frying pan large enough to fit the croutons. Add the remaining 2 cloves garlic, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the garlic is just the tiniest bit golden. Remove the gloves and reserve them for another use (or throw them in the soup!). Now, turn the heat up to medium-high and add the croutons. Fry, tossing the croutons so they get golden on all sides, for about 10 minutes. Remove to a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle with salt.
- Ladle the finished soup into four small bowls. Top with a few croutons and serve any extra on the side.