French Onion Soup is traditionally served in individual oven safe serving bowls, which I do not have. A bread bowl was the next obvious choice. Unfortunately, Trader Joe’s does not currently have any bread with soup bowl potential. So as the old proverb goes “necessity is the mother of invention” or something like that.
In my desperate hunt for an edible bowl, I noticed a stack of mini acorn squashes in the produce section at Trader Joe’s. I imagined how the savory richness of onion soup would taste against the slight sweetness of acorn squash. I hoped it would be a seasonal match.
Trader Joe’s carries an amazing French Onion Soup in the freezer section that could be considered a classic, but I wanted to see if I could make my own using only items from Trader Joe’s. Ready to take on what seemed like a labor intensive challenge, I discovered the soup is quite simple to prepare.
4 small Acorn Squash
3 large, or 4 small yellow onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup dry vermouth
1 32oz carton Trader Joe’s Organic Beef Broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry thyme
Trader Joe’s Pain Pauline
1 cup Gruyere or Emmental cheese shredded
Here is what transpired (directions):
Preheat oven according to Acorn Squash instructions. Slice the top part of each squash to remove the stem (about ½ -1 inch slice) and remove the seeds. Drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle salt and pepper on the inside of each squash. Place on a baking sheet and cook for about 25 minutes. You don’t want to overcook them. They should be easy to pierce with a knife, but still firm enough to hold the soup.
While the squashes are cooking, peel the onions and slice them in half. Then, thinly slice the onions into half moons. Place the onions in a cast iron or heavy stock pot. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and cook on medium heat until onions become wilted and translucent. Add two tablespoons of butter and cook for 10-15 minutes. Stir every few minutes to ensure onions are evenly cooked. Add third tablespoon of butter and bring the heat down to low. Continue cooking and stirring until onions start to turn a caramel color.
Increase heat, add Vermouth, and begin to deglaze pot. Mix in beef broth, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, begin shredding cheese (you can also use a potato peeler to create thin ribbons). Slice the bread into pieces that will fit inside the acorn squash, and toast in the oven or a toaster.
When the soup has finished cooking switch the oven setting to Broil. Sprinkle some cheese inside the squash bowls and ladle the soup carefully. Leave some room for the bread to fit inside. Place a piece of toast inside each squash and sprinkle more cheese on top. Place baking sheet with soup bowls in the broiler until cheese is melted and slightly browned (about 1-2 minutes) check frequently to prevent burning. You can choose to enjoy the soup and leave the squash, or you can scrape the squash bowl and mix with the soup for a delightful meal!
A few notes:
Vermouth can be omitted, or replaced with white wine, red wine, brandy or a mixture of any of these. Feel free to experiment.
Most recipes call for baguette but I prefer the taste of Pain Pauline for this soup. You can use any bread you like. You can even use croutons. And of course you can use a bread bowl instead of squash.
Some recipes call for fresh thyme, I only had dried so that is what I used. Trader Joe’s often carries herb gardens with fresh thyme.
*This story has been edited to delete a reference to vegetarianism, ed.