Monday, March 11, 2013

Walkabout Soup - Cream of Onion Bisque

Outback Steakhouse "Copycat" Recipe with a little twist

One of my favorite things at Outback Steakhouse has been the tried and true "Walkabout Soup". When they first debuted in Michigan (and it's more years than I care to admit but I think I was still single so it's been quite a while), they featured a cream of onion soup daily. Over the years the Walkabout Soup has become more of a "soup of the day" and unless you are paying close attention to the weekly schedule it's luck of the draw and you can't anticipate what you will be getting.

Walkabout Creamy Onion Bisque

I did some scouring and with some help from friends I was able to find copycat recipes for Walkabout Soup online. The best one I found I pinned and saved the recipe. You can find the original recipe here and thank you Molly53 for creating this!

Over time, making this repeatedly I have tweaked it to cater to my family and have made some revisions. The most important one is that we add an extra step and make this soup into a creamy bisque rather than leaving those onions whole. I also probably made it more fattening but for creamy soup you shouldn't try to make it "light".

Here's my version:

Walkabout Creamy Onion Bisque


4 sweet onions, sliced
4 Tablespoons butter
1 carton of chicken broth
2 Tablespoons of soup base (I used beef this time and it added a new dimension)
1/4 cup of Velveeta cheese, cut into small pieces to make it melt quicker
White Sauce (see below)
Shredded cheddar cheese and croutons for garnish

White Sauce:

6 Tablespoons butter
6 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups of heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups of half and half


Slice onions and place in a large pot (8 quart or so) with the butter and slowly cook. I use yellow sweet onions or Vidalia but I'm sure you could use white onions, for a sharper flavor, if you wanted. I don't concern myself on cutting them evenly, or slicing thinly because we will pulverize the onions later into the bisque with our secret weapon. We want to soften the onions without burning them so go slow. Low heat is good.

Once the onions are softened and clear in color, I add a box of chicken broth (the carton) and some soup base. I think that the chicken broth with the beef soup base really was a good combination and made the soup a bit heartier. The recipe originally called for some salt and pepper at this time but I find that this soup base has a ton of flavor and additional seasonings aren't really necessary. However, if you are familiar with the original Walkabout Soup you will recall it's pretty peppery so if you are wanting to stay true, by all means add a load of pepper. I have persnickety kids so I don't do that. I can hear them now. . . "oh this is too spicy" or "wow this has a lot of pepper in it". I can see them running to the sink dramatically, practically swooning as they fill a glass with water and gulp it down in one fell swoop.

While the soup is heating up with the liquids, you can start the white sauce.  We start with a roux, combining butter and flour in equal parts. This is the basis to the sauce and it's very important to get them evenly combined with low heat. I use a wooden spoon. I think it is helpful and doesn't impart any extra flavors to this base.

You continue to stir until you have a nice smooth glossy mixture. You will see the color change slightly, more of a deeper yellow and the more you heat it you will see that it will start to pull away from the sides of the pan. You will also begin to smell this heavenly scent that goes from buttery goodness to a more nutty aroma. Keep stirring and then slowly add the cream mixture and then the salt.

The key with the liquids is to add in little bits and stir it in completely. If you go too quick you will end up with awful clumps. Honestly in this soup it won't matter as much because we will blend it into a bisque but you might as well master the roux thing. It's important to so many foods. Stir between additions of the liquid and then keep stirring on a low heat. You will feel the liquid begin to thicken as the flour does its magic.

Once you add this mixture to the soup we have going it's time to also add the Velveeta cheese. Now I know some of you are thinking that Velveeta cheese is the Devil. I am leery of it too but for melting, it just works. You don't want to put chunks of cheese in this concoction that just settle at the bottom. We want this smooth. Add the cheese and stir the soup to make sure it's all combined. I then put the lid on and leave it at low for about a 1/2 hour to really get those flavors merged.

Now if you choose, you can be totally done right now with this soup. It would be okay except that I wasn't real careful about my slicing and the onions will be haphazardly sliced and it will be chaos. You may not have the same issues as me. . .  But if you want to join the Bisque Bandwagon, you will need this extra step. . .

Please meet the Immersion Blender! Now I have done the old fashioned thing, taking my soup and putting it in batches in the regular blender or using the food processor. I don't mean to sound like an infomercial but that is messy and the liquid splatters and the gaskets don't hold it because of the steam and there is soup on my ceiling. . . Sigh, just buy an immersion blender. Stop the madness!

When you use the immersion blender you will make quick work of those onions and your soup will be velvet. Now I find that the blender does kick up some froth as you can see here but it will settle down. I leave the soup on low covered for a little longer. I suppose you could eat it frothy but that seems like a creamy onion milkshake and I'm just not interested.

Garnish the soup with shredded cheese and croutons, or bits of bacon. I do like a slice of brown bread with honey butter. That's pretty good too and it's more like Outback. I think I need Outback's bread recipe next.

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