Last year, while Ryan and I were in Paris, we went to an absolutely fabulous and charming Basque restaurant called Beaurepaire. We went with friends on our last night there. The restaurant itself was a cozy little place very near to Notre-Dame, on the Left Bank situated at a quaint little cobblestone square along rue de la Bûcherie (one of the oldest streets in Paris).
A friend we were traveling with had suggested the restaurant after she visited it before on a prior trip. The cuisine is of Northern Basque Country, which is actually in southern France, but is a region of blending cultures where the northern border of Spain and the southern border of France have melded over the centuries. It is a rustic and earthy cuisine with all of the advantages and refinements brought out in a Parisian restaurant.
We sat at a country-style table and perused the menu, full of surprises, questions, and delights. I noticed that they had an onion soup available and learned from the waitress that it was, in fact, vegetarian! She was surprised that I was surprised and further explained that it was made with onions, water, cream, butter, and a little bit of salt and pepper. C’est tout.
Because my French is non-existent, I asked her again just to make sure we both understood. She replied emphatically in English, “Absolutely not! Why would we ever use broth in our onion soup?” Being a vegetarian, I hardly ever get to enjoy soup at most restaurants as it’s invariably made with some sort of beef or chicken broth (out of laziness, according to our hostess that evening). So, as my first course I elected the Northern Basque-inspired onion soup.
When it arrived I knew I was in for a treat. The soup was light, rich, and very thin—it rather resembled a sipping broth—and had an aroma I can only describe as deliciously honest. I knew exactly what was in it. It was garnished with a few dashes of hot paprika, bit of fresh green herbs, and two pieces of baguette bread lightly toasted with delicious Gruyère cheese melted on top. After my first sip I literally exclaimed it was the best soup I had ever had in my life. It was a beautiful savory broth that was lightly flavored with onions and made perfectly luxurious with cream. It was so incredible that I asked if I could cancel my main course and have an even bigger bowl instead, and of course with more bread! She happily obliged.
For almost a year I have talked about the Beaurepaire onion broth, telling anyone who will listen to me about the world’s greatest soup, just how absolutely fantastic it was, and how I was eager to get into the kitchen and try my hand at this delicious savory onion broth. After a few rounds of testing, especially during the properly chilly winter weather we have been having in Chicago, I finally came up with my version: Luxurious Onion Sipping Broth.
This is a very thin, but warmly rich, broth that is perfect for sipping at the beginning of a meal, enjoyed on a cold afternoon to warm up after a day of being outside (Après-ski, anyone?!), and especially when you are feeling a bit under the weather—it instantly warms your toes and makes you feel cozy. I have found that the best serving size is between 5 to 6 ounces. The flavors are light, well-rounded, and subtle. Just as the Beaurepaire chef did, I finish my Luxurious Onion Sipping Broth with a dash of hot paprika and some finely minced flat leaf parsley.
You can serve this either in a teacup or mug so it can be sipped slowly and savored (the teacup adds a bit of fun when serving!). In fact, as I’m writing, I am watching the snow fall on a fabulous and tranquil afternoon and I have a little cup right next to me to help stay warm!
Luxurious Onion Sipping Broth
Ingredients (makes about 7 cups)
Yellow Onions – 10 cups, sliced ¼-inch thick
Butter – 4 tablespoons, unsalted
Garlic – 5 cloves, thinly sliced
Sea Salt – 1 ¼ teaspoon
White Pepper – ¾ teaspoon
Water – 10 cups
Heavy Cream – ¾ cup
Hot Paprika – for garnish, optional
Flat Leaf Parsley – finely minced, for garnish, optional
In a large heavy bottomed pot set over medium heat, add the butter. Once hot, add the onions, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for 10-12 minutes until translucent and tender, stirring occasionally.
Next, add the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 45 minutes. Then, remove from the heat.
Using a slotted spoon and working in small batches, remove all of the onion and garlic pieces and place them into a fine mesh sieve set over a bowl. Using the back of a wooden spoon, gently press to expel as much liquid as possible. Once all of the onions have been processed, return all of the liquid back into the pan.
Stir in the heavy cream and gently reheat over low heat.
Check for seasoning, and serve. Garnish with a few dashes of hot paprika and a little fresh parsley, if desired.
Tip: This broth can be stored for up to 4 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Gently reheat over a low heat before serving.
Idea: Since this is really more of a sipping broth it is really meant to either start a meal, or be served as a goûter (afternoon snack) to help warm you up on a chilly afternoon or evening. Of course, just the broth alone is a fabulous light lunch or dinner with a big green salad, baguette, and some cheeses—très chic! It is equally as flavorful with or without the addition of garnishes.