Friday, February 24, 2012

FRENCH ONION SOUP

I begin this post with a deep apology to my best friend D, who hates, hates, hates onions.  She is a regular reader of this blog, and I don't want to put her or any of my other readers off.  So D, I am sorry for making you look at so many pictures of onions, but... there is no other way to show how to make onion soup.
Renoir, "still life with onions"  I love this painting!  

The first time I made onion soup I was a very young person.  About 12 or 13 years old.  We had it for dinner, and I saved a bowl for my dad who was working late that day.  He arrived home around 9:00 pm, and I rushed to the refrigerator to get his bowl of soup.  I removed the cover, and to my utter surprise there was nothing in the bowl other than a well soaked piece of bread. No soup.  The bread had soaked up all the liquid.  What was left over was an uneatable mush. A memory which makes me laugh today, but boy, was my cooking pride wounded that day.  The lesson here is that onion soup should be enjoyed steaming hot just as it comes out of the oven.  If you need to store it, by no means add any of the bread to the container!  Do that, and your hard working dad, coming home late from work, will have nothing to eat for dinner.
To make this soup you will need lots of onions, so the best thing to do is to get Spanish ones because they are large.  Plus they have kind of a sweet taste.  So get three Spanish onions, peel them, and cut them in half. Then get to slicing.  If you’re like me, you will start to tear up half way through the job.
Below is shown an easy and fast way to slice the onions.  By cutting them this way they'll be a good size for the soup.  If they are chopped into smaller pieces they might tend to burn rather than caramelize.  So cut your onions in half and then slice each half vertically down the middle.  Then cut the whole onion into thin horizontal slices.


In a heavy Dutch oven heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of butter.  If you're on a diet, you can forgo the use of the butter and replace it with oil, but the addition of butter serves to give the onions a nice dark caramelized color.  
Once the butter and olive oil have started to bubble up, add all of those onions that you sliced and cried over.  

Season them with salt and pepper and let them cook for a couple of minutes.... then add 5 large cloves of garlic.  Make sure the garlic has been minced before it's added.  By now, your lovely hands, which have chopped all those onions and minced all that garlic, smell nothing like Chanel #5, which is what they smell like on most days, right?  


It's now time to give the onions a good stir.  Do that and then turn the cooking heat down to low, and I mean low.  The onions will  have to cook the low and slow way, for about one hour.  The drawback to this is that you'll have to stay close to the stove, so that you can keep stirring the onions every so often. They should not be allowed to start burning.  So the mantra here is, mix, mix, mix, stir, stir, stir, caramelize, caramelize, caramelize.  Repeat after me:  mix, mix, mix, stir, stir.... Thank you. 

Add a bay leaf and the leaves of a long sprig of fresh thyme.  
Here we are about half way through cooking.  It's looking good!
After one hour of cooking and stirring the onions are ready.  Turn off the heat. At this point the onions go in the refrigerator.  I will finish cooking the soup tomorrow.  See you then! 

The onions rested in the refrigerator overnight, and now I've taken them out to finish cooking the soup.  Doing it this way saves me time.  I can cook the onions the day before, in the evening, and then put them away.  The next day I can assemble the soup in no time.  I  took the Dutch oven with the onions out of the refrigerator and placed it on the stove top.  I left it alone for a few minutes to come to room temperature and then I turned the heat on to low.  I stirred the onions and let them warm up. I added a little flour to serve as a thickener.  I stirred and cooked for about 5 minutes, until the flour taste was cooked out.  Next, I added one cup of nice white wine.  Mixed and let that warm up and then added three cups of beef broth and 2 cups of chicken broth. Six cups of liquid all together.  All broths were low in sodium, so after the liquid started to steam up, I mixed again and I added salt and pepper to taste.  At this time I also removed the bay leaf.


I placed the lid on the pot and covered it partially.  I let the soup cook for half an hour, so that it got really warm and so that the alcohol from the wine got a chance to burn off.


Meanwhile, I sliced a baguette in pieces and toasted them.  Everyone wanted lots of bread in the soup.  OK by me.
I also shredded the Gruyere cheese and added a little grated Parmesan to it.

Once the bread finished toasting, I ladled the soup into bowls and toped it with the bread.  On top of the bread went the grated cheese, and then the soup bowls were placed on an ovenproof tray and went into the oven.  I had turned the broiler on, and so I placed the tray with the soup bowls on the lowest rack of the oven.  Now I had to wait for the cheese to melt.  To tell you the truth, I can enjoy this soup with out the cheese.  I know this preference is anathema to French cooking purists, but I can live with that.  I ate mine without cheese!


I hope you enjoyed checking out how I made French onion soup!  
This is a contribution to FFWD.

9 comments:

  1. Greek Girl from QueensFebruary 24, 2012 at 12:24 PM

    Awwwww...that was such a sweet and lovely (and loving) story about wanting to give your late-night-working dad some tasty onion soup. No matter that it didn't turn out quite the way you'd planned...it mattered (and matters, still) that the love was there, even if the soup, sadly, was not).

    I love onions (sorry, D!), and I love French onion soup. Especially with lots of cheese and sometimes croutons on top, added at the very last moment. Heaven. And super comfort food, or food to warm the winter chills away.

    Thanks for sharing this, Ana. Dee-lish!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, enjoyed your post. Also gonna check out some of your Greek recipes on your blog!
    -Kathleen

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love to order onion soup when we go to a restaurant, but never made it at home, and after I see how long it took to cook those onions I think I'll stick to the restaurant versions. But I just know your soup was good too. How much were you able to eat?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi, Car... I ate just half a bowl (the bowls are kind of large). I had a whole slice of the bread. After that I was full. You know me though, I love to cook. I only made half the recipe and we had leftovers for the next day.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Great artwork! Fun post to read, and nice step-by-step. Love Greek recipes and will check them out too:)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh my, the onion. The blessed onion.

    Thank you for your acknowledgement of my true feelings for the onion. True to the word. I hate onions.

    And my apologies to all who read my feelings about the onion, should Ana publish this onion rant. It it truly misunderstood on my part, however it will continue to stay that way for as long as I live. And I say misunderstood because even my dogs are known to eat onions. I just cannot figure that out.

    The onion, what food group does it belong to anyway? None. It has a family all it own. No kidding. It large cells make for a consistency I just cannot eat. And it does smell, and no not like Chanel, any number Chanel.


    But with all said in what is a short rant about the onion, I would like to say I will always read about any food you publish into your blog Ana because no matter what it is, even the onion, the artistry in your writing and photography are most enjoyable. D.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember when we first met, all those centuries ago, one of the first things you told me was "I don't eat onions." I think your mom was waiting lunch for you. "I DON'T EAT ONIONS."

      Delete