Sense of Home
Nosing through my freezer earlier in the week I came across a few jars of beef stock and started thinking about what I wanted to make with the stock. I hadn't settled on anything by Sunday morning, but when I woke it was cloudy, cool, and rainy, perfect for a pot of soup. Then I found this recipe over at Smitten Kitchen, where there is always another creative and delicious recipe to try. Ms. Smittenkitchen herself adapted it from Julia Child's classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I stuck close to the recipe, just leaving out the Cognac I did not have, and using the homemade beef stock I had. I toasted the French bread rounds under the broiler before placing them on top of the soup, they soaked up some of the soup as we broke them apart with our spoon, but they kept their crunchy exterior.
The beef stock is not from 2010 as the jar lid would indicate, I just didn't cross out the '10 when I crossed out the Apple Juice label. The beef stock was made back in January and placed in the freezer, it almost looks like chicken stock in its frozen state. I find stock to be very easy to make and freeze or can, for later use. In fact all the necessary ingredients can be placed into the crock pot, I can head out to work for the day and come back to a finished full-flavored stock. Toss the bones and vegetables and place the remaining stock in quart jars and into the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove the solid piece of fat from off the top, put on a lid and place in the freezer. It is perfectly good for several months.
I really like the finishing touches to this French Onion Soup. I ate it with and without the gratinee, but prefer it with, it balances the soup nicely. A strong flavored Gruyere and Parmesan are perfect with the strong onion flavor. This recipe reminds me of the scene in the movie Julie and Julia, based on the book with the same title by Julie Powell, where Julia Child is practicing chopping onions, with a mound of chopped onions in front of her and tears streaming down her face. I shed a few tears while chopping onions for this recipe. This is my second Julia Child recipe that was not as difficult as I anticipated. This recipe is actually very simple, and both recipes I have tried are very tasty.
French Onion Soup
1 1/2 pounds (about 5 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, additional to taste
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef stock (preferably homemade)
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a Viognier, from Cline)
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
To finish [Gratinee], optional
1 tablespoon grated raw onion
1 cup freshly grated, Parmesan cheese
1 cup grated Gruyere
olive oil to drizzle
approximately 12 1-inch thick rounds of French bread
Heat butter and olive oil on medium-low heat in a large, heavy bottom pot. Add onions, stirring to coat. Cover pot and reduce heat to low, letting them cook and soften for 15 minutes. Now, if you are like me and tend to cry over onions, run your hands under cool water and dry your tears.
After the 15 minutes is up, uncover the pot and turn the heat to medium, add salt and sugar. Saute onions, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes until they are a deep golden brown. Sprinkle caramelized onions with flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the wine in full, then add the stock a little at a time, stirring between additions. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes, skimming any foam that rises to the top so that the soup will remain clear. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if it needs it, just remember, if you finish with the cheese and bread topping, the cheese will be adding salt to the soup, so go easy. Set aside.
If finishing with the Gratinee: Place French bread rounds on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Broil bread rounds until toasted, watch closely. Grate the onion. Mix the two cheeses together.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Arrange six oven-proof bowls or crocks on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bring the soup back to a boil and divide between the crocks. Add to each crock of soup, 1/2 teaspoon grated raw onion and approximately a tablespoon of grated cheese Stir to combine. Place one or two toasted bread rounds on top of each crock of soup and mound as much cheese as you like on top.
Bake soup bowls or crocks on tray for 20 minutes, then preheat broiler. Broil for one or two minutes under the broiler until the top is lightly browned. Enjoy!