Though this soup can be made with ordinary Spanish or Bermuda onions, it’s particularly good with mild, sweet ones—Walla Walla Sweets from Washington State, Vidalias from Georgia, 1015s from Texas, Osos from Peru (a recent import), or the currently ubiquitous Maui onions from Hawaii. Be careful with the last-named, though. According to the Maui Farmers Co-Op Exchange, which markets about 65 percent of all Maui onions, the only ones that are truly mild and sweet in character are those from the island’s Kula highlands; onions grown in the nearby flatlands and not labeled Kula are likely to be more pungent. There is also at least one brand of so-called Maui onions on the market that are not grown on Maui at all, but in Southern California. These are nowhere near as sweet as a good Kula Maui.
In a large skillet, sweat onions in olive oil over very low heat for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Stir in paprika and cook about 10 minutes longer.
After adding paprika to onions, melt butter in a medium saucepan, whisk in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until flour has turned golden—about 3 minutes.
Remove saucepan from heat and add milk slowly and steadily, whisking vigorously to make a thick sauce. Stir in cheese. Add salt and white pepper to taste. Set aside.
Purée about half the onions with half the beef stock in a food processor or blender, then pour into a large soup pot. Add remaining stock and whisk in sauce.
Add remaining onions to soup, stir well, and simmer about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with scallions just before serving.
© 1992 Colman Andrews. All rights reserved.