Another round of snow and ice, another snow day for the kids – upwards of ten at this point. I was very happy not to have to go anywhere. I doubt we’ll be going anywhere until Monday when it warms up a bit and DH and W will be home from sailing in St. Pete and can dig us out. Fortunately, we are as always well-stocked with food and wine (as well as milk and diet coke).
I spent most of the day working but finished a little earlier than I had thought I would. My dinner plan had been the turkey meatballs in marinara sauce that I had pulled out of the freezer earlier, but since I had a little time, I thought it might be nice to make a big pot of something that would be warm and comfy and make my house smell good. Except that I did not want it to be too big of a pot, and I didn’t want to be too much work. French onion soup fit the bill. Never-mind that my dining companion for the evening, who has eaten onion every day of his life since he started eating solid food eleven years ago, has begun to pick the onions out of his food during the last couple of months. He can have the turkey meatballs (which, BTW, have onions in them).
I had started slicing onions when I remembered the mandolin that DH bought me for Christmas. He has used it a few times, but since he’s been doing most of the cooking, I have not. Its operation was not immediately intuitive, and given that I would not be able to get out of here to go to the emergency room if I cut my finger off, I decided to stick with my knife. As my onions (including one red onion to sweeten it up a little) were sautéing, it occurred to me that I should use Julia’s recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume 1). My copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking is a first edition (also a Christmas present from DH) so I didn’t want to bring it in to the kitchen but the recipe is simple enough that it didn’t matter. I’ve made French onion soup a million times from a million difference recipes, and had I not thought about my new cookbook, I had planned on making up this pot as I went along. Interestingly, Julia’s recipe does something that none of the other recipes I’ve read do: she adds a few tablespoons of flour to the caramelized onions before adding the broth and wine. I was cool with that, but then she wanted me to add the boiling beef stock AND THEN the wine. Every molecule of my being screamed “Use the wine to deglaze the pan, then add the beef stock!” but since I had committed to using Julia’s recipe (who am I to question Julia???), I did not. In the end, I doubt it makes any difference, it just seemed kind of odd to me. Here is my slight adapted version of Julia’s Soupe a L’Oignon (6-8 servings):
5 cups onions, thinly sliced (about 1-1/2 lb)
3 T. butter
1 T oil
1 t. salt
¼ t. sugar
3 T. flour
2 quart beef stock, boiling
½ cup dry white wine
salt & pepper to taste
1 French baguette, cut in 3/4" thick rounds
1 clove garlic
3 oz gruyere, shredded
Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed covered saucepan for 15 minutes. Add the salt and sugar, raise heat to moderate and cook 30 - 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions have turned a deep golden brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir 3 minutes.
Off the heat, add the boiling stock to blend the onions. Add wine, season to taste, and simmer partially covered 30 - 40 minutes, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning. If not served immediately, return to a simmer before serving.
Bake the bread on a baking sheet in a preheated 350º oven about 30 minutes, till hard and lightly browned, basting them with olive oil after 15 minutes, and then turning them and basting the other side. When baking is completed, rub each piece with a cut piece of the garlic. Add the croutons to the hot soup and top with the cheese immediately before serving.
The soup was a perfect compliment to an icy winter night.