Tuesday, February 6, 2007

I love/ hate the French (Onion Soup)

French Onion Soup, aka The Most Difficult Soup Ever

File under: Warming Winter Soups,

From The Soup Bible

I’ve been complaining for nearly a month now about this soup. I adore French Onion Soup. If I’m out and it’s on the menu, I order it. Always.

If you recall in January I set out to make this soup. I spent $10 on cheese because I didn’t pay attention to the fact I needed Swiss or Gruyere cheese and bought both. I also bought a giant bag of onions. I get them home only to discover that I need flameproof soup bowls. Seriously, who owns these? Nobody. I can’t find them in the store. Bed Bath and Beyond carries some gorgeous ones, but it wasn’t until I got to the store that I discover they only sell them online. At this point I’m too frustrated to spend the $8 on shipping only to have to wait 2-3 weeks for them to arrive. As a last resort I go to Marhsalls, where I find two bowls void of packaging. The sticker says they are oven safe. I take this to mean that they won’t explode when I go to broil my soup. And in the event they do, I’m only out ten bucks.

So last night instead of going to the gym (it was 14 degrees out and 45 mph winds!) I stayed home to finally make my soup.

Enter chaos.

Servers 6 to 8
(total lie. More like 4)

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large onions, finely sliced
2 to 5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sugar (I used splenda because that’s all I own)
½ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour)
½ cup of dry white wine (this should totally be optional. And what is dry white wine anyway? I used a half of a cup of Chardonnay left over from New Year’s which would explain the unpleasant smell)
2 ¼ quarts of beef stock (or in my case, 9 teaspoons of beef bouillon. For all you vegetarians out there, I’m sure you could substitute vegetable bouillion instead.)
2 tablespoons of brandy (optional- I did not add this. Like I own brandy!)
6-8 thick slices of French Bread, toasted
3 cups grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese (note, this is entirely too much cheese. Depending on how much you like cheese, use 1 ½ cups and good luck finding cheese already grated.)

1. In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan or flameproof casserole, heat the butter and oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook for 10 to 12 minutes until they are soft and beginning to brown. (how brown, exactly? There were no photos. And it took less than 5 minutes)

Chef’s tip: slice your onions ahead of this step. It took me 20 minutes to slice these onions finely. Pain. In. The. Butt.

2. Putting one garlic clove aside, finely chop the rest and add to the onions. Add the sugar and thyme and continue cooking over medium heat for 30-35 minutes or until the onions are brown. Stir frequently. (I only cooked it for an additional ten minutes)

Chef’s tip: Chopping garlic sucks. Buy it already minced and just jump a bunch in.

3. Sprinkle the flour over and stir until well blended. Stir in the wine and beef stock and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam from the surface. Lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir in the brandy if necessary.

Chef’s tip: now is a even good time to grate the cheese if you haven’t already done so. I can’t imagine why I couldn’t have used already shredded mozzarella cheese. Does it matter? No. Take this opportunity to toast your bread if it’s not already toasted. Also check to make sure the pilot light in the broiler is lit to avoid any embarrassing mishaps later on when you go to broil the soup. Time permitting, catch an episode of Friends or start a movie while you wait (I started Love Story).

4. Heat the Broiler. Rub each slice of French bread with remaining garlic clove. (totally unnecessary). Place 6-8 (or in my case, 1) flameproof soup bowls on a cookie sheet and fill them about three-quarters full with soup.

5. Float a piece of toast in each bowl. Top with grated cheese, dividing evenly. Broil about 6 inches from heat for 3-4 minutes or until cheese is nice and bubbly. Serve piping hot.
Chef’s note. The bowl will be wicked hot. Use oven mitts when carrying it to the table.

From start to finish this soup took me 2 hours. No joke. I was exhausted by the time I finished. I will never make this again, even though I am now told that there are mixes one can use and various other shortcuts. Don’t get me wrong, the soup was good, but I don’t want to waste my entire evening making it.

I’ll just order it out.

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