Monday, May 19, 2008
In an earlier post, (Asparagus & Victoria's Secrets), I wrote that in the Upper Midwest spring is binary, and that this year the switch has been firmly in the off position. Spring has made a few half hearted attempts to establish itself, but it seems unwilling to truly take charge. So tomato plants stay inside, I need a jacket to grill and, when it gets really bad, my thoughts turn back to soup.
I love French Onion Soup, I just hate making it. It's time consuming and if you turn away for too long, an hour's worth of work turns into lightly burned mush. When I have the time and the patience, I'll make Julia Childs' recipe, (I'll post that one in the fall), it's far and away the best; but today I'm going to show you a recipe, while not as unctuously savory, it still makes an acceptable product.
Over the years I've made a few fruitless attempts to come up with a way to make a quick onion soup. My forays have always centered around oven roasting the onions instead of the attention devouring approach of caramelizing on the stove top. What appears below is a combination of an "Eating Well" magazine recipe with an Emeril Lagasse recipe with some Crabby adjustments. Try it, enjoy it and remember to cover up the tender plants during every frost warning.
Roast Onion Soup
by "Eating Well" magazine, Emeril Lagasse and Crabby
4 Large Red Onions, halved and the n thinly sliced
1 Large Sweet Onion, (Vidalia, Walla Walla type) halved and then thinly sliced
3 Large Shallots, peeled, halved, then thinly sliced
4 Garlic Cloves, peeled and halved
2 TBSP Olive Oil
4 Cups Chicken Stock, low sodium variety or homemade if possible
2 Cups Beef Stock, low sodium or homemade if possible
1/4 cup cognac (optional)
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
Salt & Pepper to taste
8 (1/2") slices of French Baguette
1/2 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese (more for those who like a lot of cheese)
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Place the sliced onions, shallots and garlic in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss the vegetables using your hands and then arrange as a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper (I suggest 1 teaspoon of each).
Pour the broth into a heavy soup pot or dutch oven and warm over low heat while the vegetables are roasting.
Roast the vegetables for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. NOTE WELL: Depending on how thinly you sliced the onions, how hot your oven runs and how caramelized you want the onions, this step could take as little as 20 minutes or as much as 45 minutes. I prefer closer to 45 minutes but it's up to you.
While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the croutons. Lightly brush one side of each baguette slice with olive oil. Arrange the bread, olive oil side up, on an aluminum foil covered cookie sheet. Cover each slice, liberally, with grated Parmesan cheese. You might also want to consider using a mixture of cheeses, say adding some grated Comte. Set aside.
When the vegetables are done, remove, and turn the oven to broil.
Place the roasting pan on your stove top. Ladle in one cup of broth into the pan. Stir the mixture while scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the roasting pan. It will help to turn a burner on under the pan. As the broth boils it will help loosen the bits.
Transfer all of the mixture into the dutch oven and simmer for 10 minutes. If you are going to add any cognac, now is the time. The simmering will burn off most of the alcohol.
With approximately 5 minutes to go, place the cookie tray with croutons under the broiler. Watch carefully so that they don't burn (though I like that flavor of slightly crispy cheese). NOTE WELL: Depending on the strength of your broiler it may takes more or less than 5 minutes to get good looking croutons.
Just before serving add the thyme and sage. Serve soup in individual bowls with two croutons each.
There you go. This recipe is a bit labor intensive, not tough but you have to be hanging around the kitchen every 5 minutes or so. The resultant soup is quite nice though the broth lacks that thick, non-greasy oily mouth feel that "real" onion soup has. But hey, it'll warm you up while you watch the robins shivering on the bird feeders.
Until next time, just remember, you can do it, you can cook.