Friday, March 26, 2010

French onion soup

"I read somewhere that it was bad form to say 'yum' while you're eating, but 'yum!'"
-- Julie Powell, Julie & Julia

That's pretty much how I felt when I tucked into the French onion soup I made yesterday and today and had for lunch.  Yum.

FO soup is one of those dishes that has degenerated into something really awful in most restaurants in which you find it – salty brown water masquerading as stock, filled with softened but not caramelized onions, and topped with stale bread, and a layer of vulcanized goo that has been (horror!) microwaved to melt. 

And it seems to be the kind of soup that few folks make at home.  Why, I can't imagine, as it's really, really easy to do.  It takes some time, but it's a cinch to get right. 

5 onions, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
4 oz butter
2 Tbp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt

Melt the butter with the oil over medium heat in a saucepan.  Add onions, thyme, garlic, and salt.  Stir well to coat, and cook the onions until softened.  Raise heat to medium-high, and continue to cook the onions until they are brown and caramelized.  This will take about 20-25 minutes.  Be patient. It's well worth the time invested.  See how the color develops in the following photos:








Add in 6 cups unsalted chicken stock (or beef stock), scrape all the bits from around the pot, and bring to a simmer.  Cook about 10 minutes.  Add salt and pepper as necessary.  (As you've used unsalted stock, the soup will likely require a few teaspoons of salt.)

A few slices of good bread, well toasted
8 oz shredded Swiss cheese (Emmenthaler, Gruyere, or Jarlsberg do very well).




Put the hot soup in an oven-proof casserole, just slightly larger than the volume of soup. Top with toasted bread, and cover with cheese.  Pop it under a broiler until the cheese has melted and begun to brown.  Switch the oven to 450°F, and bake the casserole 15 minutes until it is very hot and bubbly.  Serve immediately.

Yum. 

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