I wrote this about three weeks ago, and FOR SOME REASON forgot to post it! Actually, the reason I didn’t post it is because I wasn’t satisfied with any of the pictures that I took, so as a result, I have a picture that I “borrowed” from another site, Delia OnLine. Although her recipe is very different from mine, it looks very similar, so I used it. Be sure to visit her site. Lots of good stuff!
At any rate, please enjoy this little narrative about my venture into the world of French Onion Soup. Rich and delicious, it’s a wonderful winter soup that has just enough decadence to make it seem a bit indulgent.
Since I wasn’t cooking the main courses for Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to experiment with a few things over the long weekend and came up with a bunch of great stuff. All successful, which surprised me, since I have a knack for trying out new experiments which really do look or taste like something that’s come out of the mind of Boris Karloff. This weekend, however, I truly tapped my inner Julia Child. And then some.
It actually began on Thanksgiving Eve when I began my stock-making adventure. A bunch of beef soup bones, marrow bones, and a shank or two, roasted with onions and carrots, was the beginning. A little bit of Merlot to deglaze the roasting pan, some water, celery, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper, and a low, back-burner temperature under the stockpot made up the rest. A 24-hour simmer resulted in a rich, dark brown stock brimming with amazing flavor and complexity. What to do with it? French Onion Soup, of course!
I spent a long time perusing recipes. Some were way too simple (add a can of stock to some boxed Onion Soup Mix and it’ll be just fine!) to very complex (caramelize onions over the course of five hours …) Guess which way I went? Not even in between. I chose the Thomas Keller five-hour method. What was the result? Orgasmic.
I started with a half-stick of unsalted pure butter and a whole mess o’ Vidalia and yellow onions, and I let them sweat and simmer on the back burner, stirring with a wooden spoon only occasionally. After about three and a half hours, I started paying really close attention to it and by the time five hours had passed, I had about a cup (!!!) of beautifully caramelized onions, deep brown, lustrous, and rich. And I used no sugar to speed up or artificially enhance the caramelization process.
A little white wine and the dark, silky stock joined the onions. Some crusty French bread topped with Gruyere completed the meal. I placed the bowl under the broiler briefly, just enough to melt and crisp the cheese, and then I dug in.
The combination was amazing. Listen, people. You can’t get anything even remotely close to this kind of flavor from a box or can. You just can’t. When you cook like this – whether it’s for yourself or for loved ones – you’re adding ingredients of love, time, and passion. Opening up a can will never get you this kind of result.
This may be hard to believe, but I really don’t remember the wine I had with my homemade French Onion Soup. I think it was the last of the Merlot I used during the preparation, but it doesn’t matter. The meal was the focus here, and that’s all that counted.
What would I have done a little differently? Maybe used a little less salt. It wasn’t overly salty, but the salt was more assertive than it needed to be, and I know that was the result of the intense reduction. In addition, I’m not a big bread eater so I may experiment with toasting the cheese and bread separately and enjoying the soup by itself with the bread as an accompaniment. I have no problem tweaking tradition!
My first experiment with a chef-quality French Onion Soup was a success that I’ll be sure to repeat again. I just probably won’t repeat it on the same day that I actually make the stock!