From April through October, during farmers market season, I rarely visit the produce section of the grocery store. Why bother when there is so much beautiful, fresh, in season produce at the markets. I only seek out a few things that don’t grow here. Lemons and limes, cherries from Michigan and Washington (I call to see when shipments arrive to get them as fresh as I can). And Vidalia onions. I love Vidalias. Vidalias are sweet, with just enough bite. They make the best caramelized onions, one of my favorite kitchen staples. I buy Vidalias in bulk, thinly slice them and let them gentle caramelize in the slow-cooker then freeze Ziploc bags full. I store Vidalias in canvas bags in the pantry for when they are out of season. I am a Vidalia hoarder. And obviously, I cook with them.
In the summer, I love a creamy cold soup when the weather is so hot and steamy. Leek and potato vichyssoise is one of my favorites, and simple to put together. Once I have a big bowl of chilled vichyssoise in the fridge, I am set for several cooling meals. The idea for a chilled onion soup first came to me when I ran across that recipe title in an old community cookbook during the height of Vidalia season. The title appealed to me, but the actual recipe was a strange combination of canned soups that was quite off-putting. So I decided to adapt a classic cold soup preparation highlighting the brilliant flavor of my favorite onion. Cooking the onions slowly keeps them sweet and mellow, melding perfectly with smooth milk. You could top this soup with some crispy croutons, chopped herbs, cooked bacon pieces or caramelized onion.
Chilled Vidalia Onion Soup
2 large Vidalia onions, or other sweet yellow onions, to yield 4 cups chopped
3 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
4 cups light chicken broth
1 cup milk
Kosher salt to taste
Peel and dice the onions. Melt the butter in a large stock pot over medium high heat, then add the onions, sprinkle over several pinches of salt and stir to coat. Add the thyme leaves. Slowly cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they are very soft and translucent, about 20 minutes. Do not let the onions brown or caramelize. When the onions are soft, add ½ cup of chicken broth and cook until the liquid has evaporated, being careful not to let the onions brown. Add the remaining broth, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, then cover the pot and simmer 30 minutes.
Remove the soup from the heat and leave to cool. When cool, puree the soup in batches in a blender. Pour the pureed soup through a strainer into a large bowl. Whisk in the milk, salt to taste, and chill until cold, at least two hours but up to overnight.