Football and French Onion Soup
I think I’m beginning to like Sundays.
This is new for me. Sundays always float in like some insidious wraith, bringing the demise of the weekend. Even when I love my job, I dread Sundays.
Perhaps my fresh relationship with Sundays is a direct result of unemployment. I don’t have to contemplate getting up and going back to work Monday morning. But maybe, just maybe, it’s the combination of football and food that really has me rethinking the Sunday Blues.
This past Sunday, while participating in yet another round of “Will The Browns Blow It In The Last Second” (which eventually may cause me to require blood pressure medication), I made a batch of French Onion Soup. I also made (and very nearly destroyed) the French bread that would be used as the croutons for said soup.
Let me tell you. This was my first French Onion Soup attempt. And I think it might emit the most glorious smell in the world on a cold, snowy day. Savory, homey, deep and rich. It is very difficult to feel distraught while onions, olive oil and butter are bubbling away on the stove top.
The French bread was a slightly different matter. Armed with fully active yeast (as opposed to my last attempt), I was proud when the dough actually began to rise. I formed it into somewhat symmetrical loaves, and popped them into the oven, anticipating a near-perfect batch.
The end result was slightly less exhilarating. I had misguidedly placed the loaves on a shelf in the lower half of the oven, and wound up with slightly scorched bottoms. Eventually I’ll get it right. Like I’ve said before, I’m really not a baker. And I refuse to post the French Bread recipe until I achieve success. But I’m trying.
Those who know me also know that I don’t deal well with my own failures. Luckily the wafting aroma of caramelizing onions was enough to soothe the potentially savage beast. I vowed to slice off the bread bottoms, pat myself on the back for baking rather than buying the baguette, and venture on into the land of French Onion Soup.
The Cookbook: Julia and Jacques Cooking At Home
This book follows Julia Child and Jacques Pepin through the PBS TV series of the same name. The two chefs offer their esteemed, and sometimes varying, opinions on how to cook basic French dishes. To me, the best thing about the book is that it shows us there really isn’t ONE way to cook.
The Recipe: French Onion Soup (with homemade French bread)
Other Menu Items: Green Salad with Vinaigrette
Cooking It Up:
You could approach this soup in a couple of different ways. You could make your own French bread, if you’re better at it than I am. You can buy a baguette (the recipe actually doesn’t specify). You can bake the soup in 11 or 12-oz ramekins for individual servings complete with cheese and bread. Or, if you don’t have ramekins, you can pour the soup into a larger baking dish. It’s actually quite flexible.
Also, you don’t have to use the bread and cheese at all. The soup is delicious on its own, and omitting the baking step would definitely render it weeknight-safe. You could actually pass the cheese at the table and serve bread on the side. So there you go. And here’s the recipe:
Jacques’s Onion Soup Gratinée
Makes about 6 cups
Melt together 1 TB butter and 2 TB oil in a heavy-bottomed 4-qt saucepan over medium low heat. Add about 5 cups peeled and thinly sliced onions, 1/2 tsp dried thyme and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix well. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, or until onions are tender, stirring occasionally.
Once the onions are very tender, remove the lid and increase the heat level slightly. Cook for another 20 to 25 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are dark brown and have caramelized. If the onions are in danger of burning, lower the heat slightly.
(Note – my onions, for some reason, never really turned dark brown. But they cooked down quite a bit, and smelled amazing. Julia suggests sprinkling just a bit of sugar over the onions to deepen the color, but you really have to stir at this point so the sugar doesn’t burn.)
Meanwhile, heat 5 cups of stock (recipe calls for chicken, I used vegetable) to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Stir the hot stock into the onion mixture, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Adjust seasonings, adding 1/4 tsp black pepper and salt as needed. This will depend largely on how salty your stock was to begin with. Stir in 1/4 cup red or white wine. (The wine is optional – but I used a cabernet, and highly recommend it.) Cover and simmer for 10 minutes more.
If you’re serving plain – you’re done. If you’re interested in the cheesy goodness of the gratinée, read on. I recommend only making enough gratinée for that evening – refrigerate any leftover soup and repeat process the night you intend to serve the leftovers.
You’ll need a baguette (French, Italian or any other crusty long loaf) and several cups of grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese.
To make croutons: toast 8 to 10 baguette slices (depending on the size of your loaf) on a baking sheet at 400 until crisp, about 10 minutes.
Arrange individual oven-safe bowls on a baking sheet. Put the croutons into the bottom of each bowl. They can be whole or broken into large pieces. Sprinkle about 2 TB grated cheese on top of the croutons. Add soup to about 1/4 inch below the edge of the bowl. Add a large mound of grated cheese on the surface of the soup.
Place baking sheet in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. The cheese will form a nice crust over the soup and will be dark golden brown. Serve hot bowls carefully.
It is almost exactly one week from the time I made this dish. I’ve been delayed for any number of reasons, mostly relating to the job search and the holidays.
I told myself I couldn’t make any food today until I got the post completed. So now it’s time to watch the rest of the Browns game, bake cheese bread and try my hand at Broccoli Soup. Enjoy!
Until next time,