2.28.2013

Soup du Jour

I don’t normally grocery shop on the weekend if I can help it, especially with the threat of a storm arriving like last weekend, but since my fridge was stocked with only eggs and tofu, I didn’t have much of a choice. I finished my shopping quick enough with the aid of a list to keep me on track, unfortunately, what seemed like a smart and practical buy of a five pound bag of onions seemed a little unnecessary once I was home, unpacked and looking at a six quart bowl of onions. As an economical cook who could already see a six quart bowl of mushy, moldy onions in my future, I decided that I should make a batch of French onion soup. A classic. Except the problem with French onion soup is how heavy it is, even in small portions. It always arrives looking fancy in a brown crock, the browned molten cheese on top all at once alluring and intimidating but usually ends up being too salty and sitting next to the cheese ball in the pit of my belly, which, is not how I want to leave a meal. Yet, time after time I order it. And time after time I’m mostly disappointed, and a little parched after. I’m completely enamored with the idea of a bowl of caramelized onions, really, I just wish it was a more satisfying reality.

I wanted the rich loving and attentive depth that French onion soup demands with the satisfaction I demand when choosing to consume an entire bowl of onions. So as I started my soup, I decided I would start with the onions and make my less dehydrating and more satisfying adjustments along the way. I caramelized my onions last night since I had the time and with the thought of letting the onions sit overnight, in mind. I saved my chicken carcass from my first post on roasted chicken and made a simple chicken broth for my soup, adding in lots of fresh thyme to simmer for about 45 minutes in a four quart sauce pot. I strained the broth then added it to my onions, which I then let simmer for another 45 minutes or so without reducing it too much. I also decided to change the traditional four inch slice of bread and cheese lava for cheesy crostini instead. In the end, I found my dream bowl of French onion soup. Maybe you’ll find yours here, too.

Not Quite French Onion Soup

Ingredients
About 9 or 10 medium sized sweet onions, thinly sliced
Two large sprigs Fresh Thyme
Three quarts homemade chicken broth or two cans of chicken broth plus eight cups of water
Vermouth
Salt to taste

For crostini
Parmigiano-Reggiano
Mozzarella
Day+ old loaf of bread thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic
Fresh thyme

Method:
Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil into a dutch oven or heavy bottomed soup pot, and warm on low heat. Peel, halve and thinly slice onions adding to the pot as you go. Season with salt, turn heat up and stir occasionally as onions start to brown. As they caramelize deglaze with about a quarter cup of water and stir, cook to au sec (dry) and repeat process until onions are a beautiful dark brown, about two hours. On final deglaze add about a quarter cup of vermouth in place of water and let cook down to demi sec (almost dry). Let cool and store covered in fridge overnight, if desired.

Add homemade chicken broth or canned chicken broth and water to onions and bring to a simmer. Let soup simmer uncovered about 20 minutes up to 45 minutes.

For the crostini: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Rub a clove of garlic cut in half over thinly sliced baguette. On a cookie sheet top crostini with a sliver of mozzarella, fresh thyme and some freshly grated parmigiano. Crisp in a 400 degree oven 5-10 minutes or until golden brown and cheese is melted.   

Season soup to taste and ladle into bowls, top with two or three crostini and enjoy.

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