Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Best Onion Soup

The best onion soup ever!
We like it so much, I've even bought special bowls to serve it in.
Who knew? My mom cooked like Julia too!
I never knew, until I decided to make onion soup yesterday. I've been making onion soup since I was about 12 years old. My mom made it several times a year, and since she deemed it easy to make, it was one of the first things she taught me how to cook. Yes, I know, that's a little nerdy, wanting to learn to cook at such an early age, but the truth is, I've always loved being in the kitchen with the grown up ladies.

As I've mentioned recently, I've been perusing "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by my cooking hero, Julia Child, since her 100th birthday celebration ( more here ). Since it was sitting right in front of me, I looked up Julia's onion soup recipe and GUESS WHAT? It is almost exactly the same as the one my mother taught me, many years ago, in our kitchen in Tampa, FL. Mom's ingredient portions were a little different, and she used all butter, but mostly it was the same! That actually makes sense, if you think about it: After all, we lived in Paris (yes Paris, France) when I was born, and that was at the same time Julia was there, learning to cook. I've secretly dreamed that maybe Mom might have met Julia, but that was pure fantasy on my part!  Maybe it happened?!?!! Or more likely, Mom learned this recipe from her French baby nurse, who helped her for several months after I was born. We lived in a little tiny house, outside Paris, in a suburb near the Loire valley. "Madame" as Mom always referred to her, came every day, and helped with me and general housekeeping duties, including some cooking. It's very likely that it was from Madame that mom learned this recipe.

I've called this scaled down version of the recipe "Onion Soup for 2" and by that I mean two main course servings. The recipe actually makes about 5 cups of soup, enough for 4 as a starter course.

French Onion Soup for 2
3 yellow onions, medium to large size, sliced

Onion Soup, simmering on the stove.
1 clove garlic, smashed and rough chopped
3 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 T. all purpose flour
1 clove garlic, chopped (optional)
4 1/2 cups beef stock or bouillon (canned is fine, that's what Mom always used and Julia endorses her decision)
1/2 c. dry white wine
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
2 - 3 thick slices day old, toasted and dried french bread, cut bite sized cubes
2 - 3 slices Swiss cheese
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese

In a heavy bottomed pot, melt butter with olive oil over low heat. Add the onions, 1 tsp. salt and sugar. Cook until onions begin to brown. This process takes rather a long time, at least 30 minutes. You must do it over low to medium heat so that the onions brown and do not burn. Stir occasionally during the process, making sure the onions don't stick and are cooking evenly.
When the onions have browned, add the sliced garlic and saute for another minute or 2 (this is my addition, and not absolutely necessary. We like a little garlic taste, but it's optional.) Sprinkle the onion mixture with flour, and stir it in completely. Continue to cook for a minute to brown the flour a little bit. Add the beef stock or bouillon and the white wine. Season the soup with a little more salt and some pepper -- taste the broth to determine how salty it is so you don't over-season. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn it down, and let it simmer, covered, for at least 1 hour. Keep the heat low so that the mixture barely simmers along, developing the rich flavor characteristic of good onion soup. Julia recommends cooking the soup for 2+ hours, but I find that one is plenty. If you leave it on low or put it in your slow cooker, you can probably simmer it for hours, filling your home with a comforting, homey smell.

This soup can be eaten as it, but we like to gussy it up a little, the way it is most often served in America, and often in France. To serve the soup, place some bread in the bottom of a bowl, like this:
Place some swiss cheese on top of the bread and carefully ladle the hot soup over the bread and cheese. Sprinkle each bowl with a little Parmesan and let the soup sit for about 5 minutes until the cheese has melted and the soup has cooled just a little bit!
Bon Appetit! 


Thistle Cove Farm said...

Bless you for a recipe for 2; I'll make it for two meals and bless each time I eat it!
You've won a copy of life:beautiful magazine; please send me a private e-mail with your mailing address.

Christina said...

Thank you for the recipe - I love this soup but never tried it because I thought it would be difficult to make.