Sopa de Cebolla is a classic Cuban recipe, that is not usually associated with Cuban cooking at all. People usually tend to associate onion soup with French Onion Soup. However this dish centered around layers and layers of caramelized onions is at the heart of Cuban cooking.
How so? Think about all the Cuban dishes that require you to boil meat before making it. We are talking about things like Vaca Frita, Rabo Encendido or Ropa Vieja. These dishes leave you with a flavorful and super intense beef stock.
Cuban Abuelas were pros at using every ingredient they had to transform a leftover into something magical and delicious. In most cases it was by necessity to stretch the little they had, but it always resulted in a quest for something even more delicious.
“Some of my favorite Sunday lunches were when Yaya (my Abuela) would make Vaca Frita and Sopa de Cebolla. She always told me they were a natural pairing because the Vaca Frita would leave her so much delicious broth, but it wasn’t until I started cooking (once she passed) that it all finally made sense to me. She really was a magician with using every single ingredient at her disposal. I remember she would cut up a little Cuban bread and she always used Munster cheese and our family of about 30-40 people would take turns sharing the soup bowls.”Cristy
From boiling the meat, you can turn that liquid into onion soup and from the soup my Abuela Oliva would use that as her base for her Arroz Oriental.Ani
We definitely have to get some Arroz Oriental up soon. You can make this soup using store bought beef broth, but we would highly suggest using it with a rich broth you get from boiling your meat.
Also you are going to need Onion Soup Bowls. You want one wide enough to hold the soup along with the bread, and the wide top will allow for the cheese to be stretched and get nice and melty. We love THIS one from Crate and Barrel but THESE are almost exactly like the ones our Abuelas had.
Some Tips for Caramelizing Your Onions
When you are slicing your onion, try to make everything as uniform as possible. Not too thin, not too thick, but most importantly the same. This will help everything cook evenly.
Be Patient. This is going to take some time. At one point or another while making this recipe you may think that you’re done caramelizing, but you’re not. You have to get them a deeper brown color. That’s what’s the most important really getting that nice caramel color.
You can use whatever cheese you like. We mentioned Cristy’s Abuela loved Muenster cheese, but you can go with what you like. Just make sure the cheese is melty. In the recipe we call for Mozzarella, Jack or even Parmigiano.
Sopa de CebollaCourse: SoupsCuisine: CubanDifficulty: Moderate
4-5 large yellow onions, sliced thin and evenly
4 cups of beef broth
8 cups of low sodium beef bone broth
1/4 cup of brandy (cardenal Mendoza is the one I use)
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/2 tablespoon of salt and fresh cracked pepper (about 1/2 a teaspoon)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce
6 tablespoons of unsalted butter (good quality that comes in a stick)
2 tablespoons of parsley, finely chopped
1 cup of cheese (I like a combo of a melting cheese like mozzarella or jack with parm
garnish or serve with gratin of cubed crusty bread,1 -2 cups of cheese (I like a combo of a melting cheese like mozzarella or jack with parmigiano)
- In a heavy bottomed pot, melt the butter and add the onions on high. Add the bay leaves, salt and cracked pepper.
- Cook the onions, stirring often. Every 10 minutes you will see them deepen in color. After about 15 minutes you’ll think you are done but keep going. You want the onions to intensify in color and flavor. It takes about 30 minutes to get the caramelized and fully cooked.
- Then drop the temperature to medium and continue cooking for another 10 minutes so they continue to caramelize. Scraping the bottom golden pieces and incorporating them into the onions.
- Add the Worcestershire, wine and brandy. Incorporate into the onions. Make sure you are back on high heat now. Allow everything to boil and the alcohol to evaporate.
- Add all the broth and two cups of water. Keep it on high and allow it to boil for 5-7 minutes. Then drop temperature to medium low for 30 minutes. You want to see the soup reduce. If it’s too thin and liquidy raise heat to high and reduce for another 10-15 minutes. If you think it’s too thick add a cup of water.
- Add the parsley. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed. * If at this point you find the soup is slightly too sweet from the onions you can add some hot sauce or red pepper flakes to balance the sweetness.
- When ready to eat, serve the soup in oven safe bowls. Place the bread pieces on top and add the shredded cheeses.
- Broil for 3 -5 minutes until everything has melted and golden brown.