Ok skeptics, haters and nay-sayers, prepare to question your reality. This is an incredibly delicious soup. One of the best soups I’ve made all year. A soup for the ages.
First you should really make Gwyneth’s vegetable stock (pg. 36) because it’s easy and complements the soup perfectly. And it’s just a bunch of veggies roughly chopped and simmered for just 45 minutes. A walk in the Tuileries compared to chicken stock.
Then it’s just a simple matter of slicing up a few more veggies (fennel and onion), opening a couple of cans of beans and crushing some garlic. Leave a little time for both the vegetable stock and the soup as there is a bit of simmering time involved.
Here’s how good this soup is: it has changed my mind about fennel. I’ve always been ambivalent because it’s in the same flavor family as anise, absinthe, black licorice, ouzo, aquavit, take your pick. And I don’t like that family much. If they moved in next door I’d go into Mrs. Kravitz -mode and keep a suspicious eye on them. But in this soup the fennel is cooked slowly and gently to bring out an entirely different side of this vegetable; it’s subtle and slightly sweet and the anise-y, licorice-y flavor is just one very interesting note among others. It’s great stuff. I’m still not drinking ouzo though.
There are two variations of this soup but of course I went right for the “French-Onion” style, which merely means you ladle it into bowls, top with bread and cheese, and brown under the broiler. Brilliant. The other version adds kale at the end of the simmer and that sounds really good too (and I don’t see why you couldn’t do both).
Be sure to salt this pretty aggressively and buy double the ingredients because you will want to make it again very soon. As a bonus, it’s one of those dishes that makes your house smell lovely.
This recipe can be found on Food and Wine but there are some differences. The most important, I think, is that the recipe on this site has you simmer the soup for 30 minutes and the book says 1-hour; I think it’s wise to give it the full hour.