I can't think of a more cozy and nourishing way to begin a holiday meal than a rich and flavorful soup made from...inexpensive onions. Gourmet? Perhaps not, though it's amazing what a long slow simmer will do to the most pedestrian of root vegetables. And the blanket of molten cheese on top makes it even more glamorous. As you know I'm participating in Share Our Holiday Table to raise money to stop childhood hunger in the US and today is the soup course!
There are two great things about a soup like this--well, there are many more I'm sure, but just I'll mention the two that come to my mind: it is wonderfully budget conscious (and who couldn't use that during these difficult times) and you can make it the day before you need it. In fact it's better that way.
I cry like a baby every time I slice onions and have tried every one of Martha's suggestions on how to prevent it (keeping my mouth shut, burning a candle nearby etc.) and none of them work. If you have a trick that does, I'd love to hear it! I actually cried so much in the making of this soup that I almost let out an involuntary sob. I've heard it's cathartic, a good cry, and I must say I felt especially good after the onions were simmering away on the stove. Remember to tuck in your fingers when you are slicing, or you'll be crying for a different reason entirely.
Though this soup is very simple to make, it does take time to cook a full pot of onions down until they become deep golden brown and sweet as can be. Don't try to rush this step, unless you are a fan of the acrid taste of burnt onions. It will take the better part of one hour.
Then stir in some flour and broth, a pinch of thyme,and a couple spoons of brandy (everything tastes better with a little booze) and simmer the soup for about 20 minutes. After that you can cool and refrigerate it until the next day. To serve it's simply topped with toasted bread (I used croutons from La Brea Bakery), blanketed with cheese and broiled.
Don't forget to see what's cooking in the kitchens of the other participating bloggers!
December 9: Soup
French Onion Soup
Dark and rich, this soup will surely satisfy the cravings of your most discriminating guests and make a lovely addition to your holiday supper. This soup tastes even better the second day, so make it in advance if possible.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
Yield: serves 4-6 as a first course
5 pounds of onions, about 6 large
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 quarts good quality beef broth or stock
1 teaspoon of beef bouillon or base, such as Better Than Bouillon (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2-3 tablespoons brandy
4 slices of french bread, toasted (or croutons)
8 slices of Gruyere cheese
1. Peel and slice onions into 1/4 inch rounds. Heat a large stockpot over medium heat and add the butter. When the butter has melted add the onions to the pot and stir to coat.
2. Cook onions for one hour, stirring occasionally, until onions are deep, golden brown. Sprinkle with flour, then gradually add stock while stirring to prevent lumps. Add bouillon if using, thyme and brandy and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover partially and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely. Refrigerate overnight.
3. To finish, reheat the soup until simmering on the stove. Adjust oven rack so that it is 6 inches from your broiler. Ladle soup into 4 oven-proof bowls that have been placed on a baking sheet. Top with slices of toasted French bread or croutons and 2 slices of cheese (on each bowl). Broil for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden brown. Serve immediately.