I have been rushing to my laptop every 10 minutes all day long to check for new comments. Even now, at almost midnight, we’re trying to watch a movie and I still can’t put it away – the movie has subtitles, and Mike is reading them to me, thats how bad I have it. It’s so fantastic to hear voices back, and I’m just immensely flattered to know so many of you check in here daily. And I love all your dinner ideas - I could finish off the next 87 days with inspiration from these comments, I’m sure.
Clearly I did not think this little contest through though, or maybe I didn’t believe I’d get as many comments as I did. I should have run it for only a day or weekend, but wanted to make sure anyone who was busy over the weekend or generally only cruised food blogs from work would have a chance too. So, sorry if your odds are getting slimmer.
But. Back to dinner.
When I saw “Sugar Onions” for sale at the (Crossroads) farmers’ market I couldn’t just leave them there. They actually helped me justify my purchase of two cheesy (pun kind of intended) French onion soup bowls circa 1972 that I bought at a garage sale last summer for 25 cents.
And since I had a chunk of Gruyère left over from the party Thursday night, dinner was a no-brainer. Besides, there is no better time to make French onion soup than in fall, slowly cooking or braising the onions while the boy and the dog swish around the back yard in ankle-deep leaves and it’s just a little too chilly to leave the windows and sliding door open without Mike’s Motörhead hoodie and thick woollies.
I looked around at various French onion soup recipes and settled on Julia Child’s. I mean, if anyone knows how to make French onion soup, it must be Julia. (Note: If you have not yet read Julie & Julia, sign it out of the library today.) The one in Saveur looks phenomenal, but the over half cup of butter made me choke (and drool) a little.
But then it kind of took on a life of its own anyway; not to second guess Julia, but I found a teaspoon of salt a little too much to add at the beginning (you can always add more at the end, but it’s almost impossible to de-salt soup), and I didn’t have white wine or vermouth. Or Cognac. Besides, Mike quit drinking in June (completely, and has lost at least 20 pounds since. Bah. I have practically quit drinking by association and haven’t lost no 20 pounds) and since then will not so much as eat anything boozy. I did have about half an ounce of sherry in the bottom of a bottle though, and so added it to the onions at the very end of their cooking, so that it cooked off quickly, leaving behind just a bit of flavour. Then I completely forgot to add the flour. Looking back (I’m just realizing it now) the soup was perfectly fine, and didn’t need to be any thicker. As for the cheese, I’ve seen recipes call for as much as 1 cup grated per bowl (yum), but it’s the sort of thing you can gauge by taste. I used a Microplane grater, which produces airy strands, so there really wasn’t much. (The Saveur recipe calls for not only all that butter, but a cup of cheese per serving. This is the sort of thing that might convince me to become a full-time athelete, the kind who has to consume upwards of 10,000 calories per day for training purposes.)
Mike swore a little while eating this, and I’m pretty sure he loves me a little bit more than he did this afternoon.
Julie & Julia’s French Onion Soup
This serves 2-3; double everything (you could get away with not doubling the butter and oil, unless you want to) to serve more.
2-3 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
a drizzle of canola or olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
pinch of salt & sugar
a glug of sherry or 1/2 cup white wine
1 can beef broth or bouillion, plus 1 1/2 cans water (or about 3 cups of beef, veg or onion stock)
a few springs of fresh thyme, or 1 tsp. dried
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper
2-3 thick slices crusty French bread, or twice as many slices of baguette
1 garlic clove (optional)
grated Gruyère, Emmental aged Gouda or old white cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano, for sprinkling (1/4-1 cup)
Heat a drizzle of oil and small lump of butter in your soup pot set over medium heat, and saute the onions for about 15 minutes, until golden. Add the salt and sugar and continue to cook until they are a fairly deep golden. Add the sherry if you’re using it, and cook for another minute, until it more or less evaporates. Otherwise add the wine, then the stock, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes. Pull out the bay leaf and thyme stems if there are any, and season the soup with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, toast the bread slices, and rub them with a cut clove of garlic if you like. Turn on the broiler. Divide the soup among 2-3 ovenproof bowls set on a baking sheet and top each with a toast, then sprinkle with the grated cheeses. Broil for a minute or two, just until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.
W of course did not go for this and ate chicken tortellini (the fresh stuff from Safeway) tossed with pesto (I had some in the fridge).