Sunday, December 6, 2009
French Onion Soup -- Or Is It American-Onion Soup?
Last night we were over the house of my friends Jessica and Peter. They invite us over a lot. And we most happily accept.
Peter is an avid cook and his current passion is pizza. We were the happy recipients of his perfected pizza dough and toppings galore for personalized individual pizzas, including caramelized onions.
As Peter roasted red peppers, grilled chicken, cooked shrimp,and prepared the rest of his toppings, I leisurely stirred the onions over low heat until they reached a rich brown and their sweet and savory smell perfumed our pizza-making endeavors.
So is it little surprise then that I had French onion soup on the brain for tonight's dinner?
Isabelle the kitty lounging ....
I haven't made this soup in twenty years. At that time, I lived a Friends tv show like existence in New York City. A bunch of us 20-something guys and gals lived within a block of each other, and we would have a great time cooking together on the weekends. We usually made amazing eats, but with the vat -- and I mean vat -- of French onion soup, we learned what the phrase "too many cooks in the kitchen" meant. The soup was like a salt lick from too many eager hands throwing salt in the soup. We had to throw the whole thing out.
... in front of a roaring fire (with some cool colors from coated pine cones).
This time around, it was only me at the stovetop, so the soup turned out rich and flavorful. I used half beef broth and half turkey stock which I had made from the Thanksgiving turkey, so this French soup had some American panache. What a great Intercontinental pairing!
I also pulled out a set of French onion soup crocks my mother-in-law gave me around 15 years ago, which I think were her friend Marianne's. These bowls are at least 30 years old. I never had an opportunity to use these until now and honor the memory of Marianne who passed away in 1985.
I think the secret to a great French onion soup is to caramelize the onions over low heat for at least 20 minutes until they're browned, sweet, and a melt-in-your-mouth consistency. A quick saute will give you flabby onions and insipid soup.
I didn't measure, but I was inspired by the use of vermouth and cognac in this recipe from In Praise of Leftovers.
Surrounded by my family and warmed by a fire cheerily blazing in the fireplace, this soup was the perfect supper for a Sunday night in December.