Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Onion Soup Weather

It's raining, it's cold. It's soup weather.

My friend Aileen shared a fast fabulous recipe for onion soup with me many years ago when I was staying with her at Gypsy Trail. So long ago we had to go to the clubhouse to make scratchy copies of the recipes I wanted. Over the years I've changed it a bit to make it easier for me, to conform to the things I usually have in my pantry. The recipe is at the end, but as I find seeing a carmelized onion is better than hearing about one, here goes:
I use a copper dutch oven with a stainless steel interior - I wore out the tin one in about a year. And I use a combination of butter (for browning) and olive oil (for not burning). It takes a while...
and you have to be careful to stir frequently or the bottom burns and the top is still deceivingly pale.
Not yet..
..okay, now. Add garlic, then flour and mustard...
and the cognac.

Use the best. If you're going to all the trouble of making something, why cheap out? It really does make  a difference.

After you flame the cognac, add the water and this stuff. Yum.
 Let it simmer for a while...
...ladle into bowls, top with cheese...
...and broil until bubbly.
I like it with a crispy white wine, like an Arneis from the Lange or the Roero. Prima has some wonderful whites from the Piemonte region of Italy. Wally likes it with a buttery chardonnay, or a pinot. Prima has those, too. 

Buon Appetito. And thank you Aileen.

French Onion Soup
four generous servings

4 cups thinly sliced onions
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 cup good cognac or armagnac
3 cups water
1 tablespoon Better Than Bullion chicken 
2 tablespoons Better Than Bullion beef
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup good dry vermouth

6 slices sourdough french bread or ciabatta, toasted
1 cup grated gruyere
1/4 cup grated Reggiano parmesan

Saute onions and sugar in butter and olive oil over low heat until well browned. For me this takes about half an hour. Thomas Keller has an onion soup recipe that calls for browning the onions for four hours - if you have the time and patience, go for it. Not me, I'm in the garden.

Add garlic, stir and saute until fragrant, about a minute or two. Add flour and mustard, cook and stir two minutes more.

Add cognac and ignite - I use a fireplace match or one of those flame-on-a-stick candle lighter thingies. This after burning off all my knuckle hair several times. Not fun. 

When cognac is burned off, add water, Better Than Bullion (beef and chicken), Worcestershire, nutmeg, and pepper. Simmer about 20 to 30 minutes.

Preheat broiler. Stir vermouth into soup. Put toasted bread into bottom of ovenproof bowls, ladle soup over. Top with a generous layer of cheese and broil a few inches from the heat until melted, bubbly and beginning to brown. Watch like a hawk!

Serve immediately. Cold melted cheese can be grim. Wally likes this with Caesar salad, I prefer something really vinegary, like butter lettuce with mustard and champagne vinaigrette. And shallots. Sort of harmonic convergence in the allium family. A few lilies on the table, or some chive blossoms in a little vase...that's a botany joke. Never mind. Eat your soup.

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