The Accidental Locavore was standing over a pot of onions for French onion soup when something Dorie Greenspan said last week struck me. She said that when you’re writing a recipe, it’s important to give instructions as to what the dish should look like, as well as the time involved. For the onion soup, Julia Child says the onions should cook for 25-30 minutes and be “a dark walnut color”. So I’m stirring my onions, watching as they go from off-white to light brown and then to walnut, a process that does end up taking 30 minutes. Here’s the recipe for 4 servings:
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2-1/2 pounds, I used 2 large white ones, two medium yellow and a large red one, just for variety)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar (this will help caramelize the onions)
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 8 cups homemade beef stock, or good quality store bought stock (check the label, a lot of them are “beef flavored stock”) 2 cups of it need to be heated (3 minutes in the microwave)
- 1/4 cup Cognac
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 sprig fresh thyme (optional)
- 8 (1/2-inch) thick slices of French bread, toasted
- 3/4 pound coarsely grated Gruyere
Heat a heavy saucepan over moderate heat with the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, stir in the onions, cover and cook slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Blend in the salt and sugar, increase the heat to medium-high and let the onions brown, stirring frequently (so they don’t burn) until they are a dark walnut color, 25 to 30 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour and cook slowly, stirring, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, then whisk in 2 cups of hot stock. When well blended, bring to the simmer, adding the rest of the stock, Cognac and wine. Cover loosely and simmer very slowly 1 1/2 hours, adding a little water if the liquid reduces too much. Taste for seasoning
Divide the soup among 4 ovenproof bowls. Arrange toast on top of soup and sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Place bowls on a cookie sheet and place under a preheated broiler until cheese melts and forms a crust over the tops of the bowls. If you don’t have ovenproof bowls you could layer a cookie sheet with parchment or a Silpat, put the toasted bread topped with the cheese on it and place it under the broiler until browned and bubbly. Then remove and top the bowls of soup with the bread and cheese. Serve immediately and enjoy!
My verdict: Great! Exactly what I was craving. Rich stock, good onion flavor, will definitely take the time to make this again (but maybe double the recipe and freeze half). I would have liked a better baguette, better Gruyere and a hotter broiler, but those can easily be fixed. Having the proper bowls helped (thanks Mom!). And fresh greens from Farmer Paul made a great simple side salad with a classic vinaigrette.