I'm not a big fan of cold weather, but cold-weather food is quite a different matter. From vegetables to beans, meats and seafood, clear broth and meaty stock to cream-based, meal-worthy or light starters, soups are quite simply my favorite food.

At last count, my soup cookbooks outnumbered every other subject, even after a major book purge; and they keep on coming. My most recent favorite is "Soup of the Day" by Ellen Brown (Running Press) who has written 38 cookbooks, including two about my other favorite foods, "Mac & Cheese," and "The Meatball Cookbook Bible."

"Soup of the Day" has 150 recipes, most of which come from well known restaurants across the country. But this particular recipe is a Brown original, incorporating sweet caramelized onions and creamy potatoes. Brown recommends browning the onions in a skillet, which accelerates the evaporation of the water and increases the browning. Then transfer the onions to the soup pot.

Brown says it's a great meal prelude, but I served it as the main event in a big bowl topped with crunchy fried shallots and crusty sourdough. (One of my other favorite things about soups and stews, in addition to them being so hearty and satisfying, is that they give me license to eat bread.)

With 150 recipes in the book, I will be making a different soup every day until the daffodils bloom.

Creamy Onion and Potato Soup with Fried Shallots

Recipe from Ellen Brown

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 large sweet onions, such as Vidalia or Bermuda, diced

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 cups vegetable, chicken, or purchased stock

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

11/2 teaspoons fresh thyme

11/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and diced

3 shallots, sliced and separated into rings

1/4 cup cornstarch

3/4 cup vegetable oil for frying

1 cup half-and-half

Melt the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, sugar, salt, and pepper, and toss to coat the onions. Cover the skillet, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover the skillet and cook over medium-high heat for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the onions are browned. Transfer the onions to a 4-quart soup pot.

Add the stock, parsley, thyme, and potatoes to the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer the soup, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are very tender, stirring occasionally.

While the soup simmers, prepare the shallots. Combine the shallots and cornstarch in a plastic bag, and shake it to coat the rings. Remove the rings from the bag, and discard any remaining cornstarch. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat to a temperature of 375 degrees. Fry the shallots for 2 minutes, or until brown and crispy. Remove the shallots from the skillet with tongs and drain well on paper towels.

Allow the soup to cool for 10 minutes. Puree with an immersion blender, or in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. If using a food processor, you have to work in batches. Stir in the half-and-half, and season the soup to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately, sprinkling each serving with some fried shallots.

Note: The soup can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered. Reheat over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add milk or cream if the soup needs thinning after reheating. Do not prepare the shallots until just prior to serving. Serves 6.

Per serving: 402 calories; 25 g fat (9 g saturated fat; 56 percent calories from fat); 42 g carbohydrates; 8 g sugar; 37 mg cholesterol; 791 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 4 g fiber.

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