When it’s drizzly and cold outside, there are few better options of coping than skipping the gym, pushing aside your pile of work and making a big, warm bowl of soup. Right? Right.
I’m smack in the middle of devouring (pun intended) Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France, so I’ve been feeling a bit Frenchy lately and decided to opt for a soup of the French Onion variety.
I’d never attempted this particular soup before, and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was. It’s certainly time consuming, but once you have the onions cut, the hardest part is essentially over.
I crafted this recipe with some help from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and Adam Robert’s, The Amateur Gourmet. The recipe follows, but before I get into the how and how much, a few helpful hints:
-If you have the time, making your own stock is key. It will still be good with store bought stock or even bouillon cubes, but the stock is a big part of the flavor here. Store bought stock just has way too much salt. The good news is that making your own stock can be about as involved as you want it to be and it’s a great way to get rid of odds and ends. A stock is certainly not a garbage disposal, but it is a great place for things like cheese rinds, bones, ends of onions and the tops of leeks — stuff you knew had value but never quite knew what to do with! Simmer for 15 minutes up to an hour and a half (the best flavor).
-Let those onions cook! This is the other key to this dish — and there are no shortcuts here. Those onions need to get SOFT and BROWN, which could take up to 40 minutes.
French Onion Soup
(This serves two, not a leftovers kind of meal)
Six smallish onions, sliced very thin
7 tbsps butter
A bay leaf (only if you haven’t used one in your broth)
2 cloves garlic (ditto on the broth note)
1/8 cup Balsalmic Vinegar
1/8 cup Red Wine (Port is ideal here, but if you don’t have a sweet wine on hand, add 1/8 tsp sugar, as I did)
4 cups broth
1 sprig (fresh) or 1/4 tsp Thyme
Cheese, at least 1/2 a cup such as Fontina or Parmesan, Grated
Stale (or toasted) bread (typically you want big slices, but I had a baguette so I used three slices of that)
1 sprig parsley (optional)
1. Melt the butter in over medium-low heat in a wide saucepan. Once the butter is melted, add the sliced onions. Let them cook until they are EXTREMELY soft, 30 minutes or more.
2. Add in the thyme, garlic, bay leaves, and a bit of salt and pepper. Mix them in with the onion and cook for a minute or two.
3. Add the wine, vinegar and sugar (if you’re using it). Turn it up to high and let the whole thing simmer and reduce for a few minutes.
4. Add the broth, season some more and let it simmer for 30 minutes to an hour (like I said, time consuming!)
Note: you can make it up to this point up to a day ahead and refrigerate!
5. Pour it into two oven proof bowls, top with the bread and then cheese. Stick it in the broiler or oven until the cheese melts and serve immediately. I screwed up here and for once didn’t use enough cheese, you want it to bubble brown over the edges of the dish you’re using.