At 4PM on Sunday, I set a stockpot on the front burner. I turned the flame to high, and as soon as the pan was hot, I added 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a generous tablespoon of butter to the pan. I peeled and halved two big onions, sliced those halves into thin half moon slices, and added them to the hot butter and oil. I gave the pot a quick stir and turned the heat down to medium low. This is how it looked at the beginning.
After ten minutes, I gave the onions a stir, made sure the flame was on low, and went upstairs to put a load of laundry in the dryer. When I came back downstairs about ten minutes later, the onions looked like this.
I put the dried mushrooms into hot water to soak. I returned three emails. I went to the window that looks out on to my driveway and glared at the neighborhood children who were playing “soccer” in my side yard using my car as a goal. I smirked a little when the squabbling rapidly escalated to tattle tale stage. I was pretty happy to hear children running and screaming back to their own yards. (Yes, I am THAT neighbor.) By then the onions had been slowly sizzling away for about 35 minutes. The smell in my house was primal, and since the windows were open, I heard the neighbors commenting something smelled so good it was making them hungry.
This is how the onions looked when fully caramelized at 40 minutes.
All that brown goodness on the bottom is fond. I myself am pretty fond of fond. It is a culinary word that just means concentrated flavor. This is what I have previously called the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. I brought the heat up to medium-high because I wanted enough heat to make the liquid I was adding boil and steam immediately.
I added ¼ cup each of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce and stirred to release all that fond from the bottom of the pan. When the pan was scraped nice and clean and the onions and liquids were bubbling, I added four cloves of garlic, roughly chopped, and some dried thyme and salt. I then added the chopped re-hydrated shitake mushrooms and filtered out the mushroom soaking water to catch all the grit before adding it to the pot. This is the result.
All that was left was adding the chicken stock, some water, and the fresh mushrooms. As soon as the pot came to a boil, I lowered the heat, put on a lid, and walked away to fold some clothes. And that was it.
An infrequent bit of stirring for 40 minutes and about 10 minutes of tending, and I have a deeply-flavored, terribly simple mushroom and onion soup. I wasted about 20 minutes on social media and could not put off diving into a bowl of soup any longer. It tasted like I had spent all day making soup. To those of you telling me you don’t have time to caramelize onion… TSK!!
- Olive Oil- 1 Tbsp.
- Butter-unsalted, 1 Tbsp.
- Onions-medium, 2 sliced into thin half moons
- Balsamic vinegar-1/4 cup
- Soy Sauce-1/4 cup
- Garlic-fresh, 4 cloves chopped
- Thyme-dried, 2 tsp.
- Salt- kosher, 2 tsp.
- Black Pepper-ground, 1 tsp.
- Shitake Mushrooms- dried, 3 ounces
- White Mushrooms-fresh, 6 ounces, sliced
- Chicken Stock-1 quart
- Water-1 cup
- In a small bowl cover the dried mushrooms with 1 cup boiling water. Set aside.
- Heat butter and oil in soup pot over medium high heat. Add sliced onions and stir.
- Reduce heat to low and allow onions to wilt and slowly turn brown. Check on the onions every 10 minutes and keep the heat very low stirring to keep from sticking. After about 40 minutes the onions will be very limp and brown and you should have a dark brown (not burned!) coating on the bottom of the pot.
- Raise the heat to medium high and add the chopped garlic, dried thyme, salt and pepper. Add the balsamic and soy and stir until all the brown bits on the bottom are scraped up and incorporated into the onions.
- Remove the shitake mushrooms from the soaking water and roughly chop. Add the shitake mushrooms and the filtered soaking water and then add the white mushrooms. Add stock and water. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, stir well and cover with a lid.
- Allow to simmer for at least 15 and up to 25 minutes. Stir and taste for salt .