Saturday was a gray, cool, damp day – lucky for me – because I had a taste for some onion soup! This recipe comes from ‘Julia and Jaques – Cooking at Home’ by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. The most important part of this recipe is to take the time to cook the onions properly; slowly and with a fair amount of stirring. After that, it’s all gravy – ermmm soup.
This will make about 6 cups of soup – 5 or 6 small crocks, or 4 good dinner-sized bowls served along with a salad and some nice bread – might I suggest a fresh loaf of Sweet Honey French?
•2 tbsp olive oil
•1 tbsp butter
•1 1/2 lb thinly sliced onions – approx. 5 cups
•1 tsp minced fresh thyme; or 1/2 tsp dried
•Salt to taste
¶5 cups hot chicken stock (or beef, or vegetable – I had a bit of beef and a bit of chicken in the pantry, so that’s what I used for this batch)
•Freshly ground pepper
•1/4 red or white wine (optional – for this batch, I used some Chardonnay I had open)
•Grated Gruyère or Emmentaler cheese – I’m rather partial to adding a nice bit of sharp Provolone
•Baguette slices for croutons – I used my own French bread, sliced and brushed with olive oil and herbs (I am also known to add a dash or three of Worcestershire), then baked in a slow oven (225º or so) until quite crisp. This varies, and I usually make these while doing something else, so I just pop ‘em in and check and stir them every 10 or 20 minutes until they look done. I keep bags of these in the freezer for salads and the occasional carb-loaded snack. I also like the fact that when I use my own bread, the ingredient list is nicely compact and easy to read without a degree in chemistry.
Set a heavy-bottomed 3 or 4 quart pot on medium-low heat and add the oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the onion, thyme and 1/2 tsp of salt and mix thoroughly. Cover the pot and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. When the onions are tender (they will still be white), uncover and raise the heat a bit. Cook for another 25 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are dark brown and have caramelized (lower the heat if they look like they’re burning).
Julia noted that she sometimes adds a bit of sugar to deepen the color of the onions. She also thought that it was a good idea to do this part while you’re working on something else – then you could put the properly coked onions aside or freeze them to finish the soup at a later date.
Assuming that you are carrying on (with the soup, not having a fit) – stir the hot stock into the pot, scraping any crispy bits from the bottom, and bring to a boil. Add pepper, the wine, if you’re using it, and any more salt you may think it needs. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
OK – you have soup. To make it gratinée, there’s this one last step. If you have soup crocks, good for you – this is what you bought them for. If you don’t, like me (I KNOW! Hard to believe, ain’t it?), take some sturdy soup bowls and set them in a roasting pan (you’re going to make a bain-marie – pouring hot water around the filled bowls before popping them into the oven).
Arrange your crocks on a baking sheet (or bowls in the roasting pan). Put the croutons into the bottom of each crock or bowl (I toasted thin slices of French bread and leaned them against the side of the bowl). Sprinkle about 2 tbsp. of cheese on top; then ladle the soup in to fill to the inner rim of the crock, or about 1/4 from the top. Heap a large bit of cheese on top, covering the surface.
Place the baking sheet or roasting pan in a 400º oven for about thirty minutes, until the cheese is golden brown and crusty. Move crocks or bowls onto individual plates and serve. YUM.