Friday, May 3, 2013

French Onion Soup

So, it snowed last night in Kansas City. In May. It was actually quite beautiful, the new green leaves shaking off the rapidly accumulating snow. I thought the trees looked like teenagers, offended that they were cold but not quite willing to do anything about it. I know. these late snowfalls are harmful to the new growth, but really, I'm sure you can imagine what I mean.

My response to unexpected cold weather is predictable. I make soup. I'd already been planning to make french onion soup last night, the snow just made it all the more appropriate.

I love french onion soup, it's my go-to choice in many restaurants. I'd never made it before and decided this would be a good time, since soon it will be too warm for the long cooking process and, besides, I had some great beef stock in the freezer.

I used the recipe in Julia Child's classic, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It's clear, simple and really, really good. Because this is a story blog as well as a food blog, I will add that my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking came from my mother-in-law, who loved to cook and collected cookbooks as avidly as I do. I don't know if she used this volume, it's unstained, but I'm rapidly fixing that problem.


I sliced a pound-and-a-half of onions (about 5) in my food processor. Doing this by hand would have been horrendous, I'm sure I would have used every tissue in the house. I then cooked them over low heat in 3T butter and 1T olive oil, in a large, covered, heavy-bottomed pot. They were wilted after 15 minutes, then I added 1t salt and 1/4t sugar (this helps with caramelizing).





I stirred the pot every 3-5 minutes, over medium heat, uncovered. After about 45 minutes they were a lovely golden brown.










I added 3T flour and stirred continually for 3 minutes, thus making a roux rich with onions.










I removed the pot from the heat and poured in 2 quarts of simmering beef stock and added 1/2 cup dry white vermouth. I put it back on a low light, stirred as it came to a simmer, partially covered and let it cook for about 30 minutes. I stirred it from time to time, adding salt and quite a bit of freshly ground black pepper.

As the soup was cooking, I sliced 1/2" rounds of baguette and toasted them in a 325 oven. At 15 minutes I brushed both sides with olive oil. At 30 minutes I pulled them from the oven, rubbed each side with a cut clove of garlic and put some grated jarlsberg cheese on top. Jarlsberg was what I had in the house and seemed like a close enough substitute, though perhaps this makes it Alsatian onion soup. I put the bread back under a broiler for a few minutes until it was melted and toasty.

As the cheese melted I added 3T brandy (aka cognac) to the soup, stirred, and removed it from the heat.


Once the cheesy bread was done I put a slice in each bowl, topped with soup and served.

It was really, really good. I have to add, I'm feeling really good about the fact that it was so homemade, since I'd made the broth last time I had beef bones. Next time I may make the bread as well.

The whole process took about 3 hours. I'd urge you to try it, some cold, snowy day.

(c)2013 Laura S. Packer

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