January 28, 2013

Onion Fennel Soup


"To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night,
all you really need is soup."
~Laurie Colwin

Winter means soup weather. Here's a recipe that I adapted from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.

I'm crazy about Ina. In fact, she has forever been my favorite Food Network Chef. I love not only her recipes, but also her personality. I want to be her friend, her neighbor, and mostly...her dinner guest!

She calls her recipe Onion Fennel Soup Gratin. It's from her book How Easy is That?. Since I did some tweaking, I did the same to the title. I think my version is a bit more mild, but every bit as delicious!


I've been making French onion soup for years. Never once did I think that there was room for improvement in my basic (very basic, I came to realize) recipe. I'd ordered French onion soup at many, many restaurants, never thinking it could get any better. Enter, Ina.

I share my passion for Ina Garten with Aunt Norma, a stupendous cook. She who owns every one of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks! We love to look at them as one would peruse a magazine. I first tasted this soup while vacationing in Siesta Key, Florida, with Aunt Norma & my mother-in-law, Dot.
Dear memories of times spent together.

Have you eaten fennel? I had never tried it until many years ago, my father-in-law, Dante offered some to me. Referring to it in the Italian "finocchio", he taught me to eat it raw, as you would celery. He dipped it into olive oil which was heavily seasoned with salt & pepper. I enjoyed the mild licorice flavor.

In recent years, I've discovered my love for roasted fennel! Something entirely different! Mmmmm.
So, here we have the addition of fennel to onions to provide another delicious layer to this soup.


4 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
3 lbs Spanish onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 lbs fennel, tops and cores removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup cooking sherry
1/2 cups wine
1 C water
5 cans beef broth
3 bay leaves
2 t salt
1  t freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf crusty French or Italian bread
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated

Heat butter & oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions & fennel.
Of note: Vidalia onions were in, so I did a mix of Spanish & Vidalia. 
                  Also, when trimming my fennel, I also removed the tough outer layer of “leaves”.
 Cook over medium heat 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown.
Add the sherry, scraping off the brown bits in the bottom of the pan, and simmer uncovered about 10 minutes.  Add the wine & water and simmer for 20 more minutes.  White or red? I didn’t specify, because this originally called for dry white. I only had red, so I used red.  The results were fantastic, so I won’t be arguing over wine choice. 
 Add the beef broth, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. 
Meanwhile, cut the bread into cubes. I leave the crusts on for a more rustic bite. If the loaf is small, you can slice it in such a way as to have crust on one side of each cube. My personal preference here. Preheat the broiler on low.  Toast the cubes until light brown, stirring to toss halfway through.
Remove the bay leaves. Ladle the soup into heat-proof serving bowls.  Top with the toasted bread cubes, sprinkle generously with cheese, and broil for 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.


The cheese of choice here is Gruyere. In the past, I've tried muenster or mozzarella,
but have to conclude that Gruyere is the way to go.



Look at that topography of lusciousness! Bon appetit!


  1. Je veux absolument l'essayer!

    1. Thanks, Lisa Louise! Let me know what you think!


Thanks for leaving a comment!
I'd love to hear what you think!