Happiness is a day that starts with this!
I have to admit that I have had a few turns in the kitchen since starting my diet. There is, after all, another person in my household who must eat and as long as there is someone hungry in our home, I will be cooking. Likewise, just because I am dieting doesn’t mean we don’t still welcome friends and family when they wish to visit. So was the case recently when my nephew-in-law and brother-in-law dropped by for an afternoon of cards and sports on the tv. (Don’t ask.) As luck would have it, the only thing on my agenda for the day was to make chicken stock from the various frozen chicken carcasses I had been saving up from earlier meals. Onion soup was the natural extention of my afternoon plans. (I’m not much for sports on tv if you haven’t caught on to that already.)
Now in the past, French Onion Soup meant Julia Child’s recipe. This is the recipe of my childhood and, in fact, to this day onion soup means “Christmas Eve” to me. This was our family’s traditional Christmas Eve meal. Our main holiday meal was on Christmas day, when the larger family group would arrive. Mom realized that Julia’s recipe would be perfect for Christmas Eve because it could be made well in advance, it was quick to get to the table, and it was filling without completely destroying anyone’s appetite for the next day’s feast. Mom would make this a day or two before Christmas Eve which actually works best — this soup gets better if it is allowed to ‘rest’ before serving for a day or two in the refrigerator.
Julia’s recipe, as most French Onion Soup recipes, calls for beef broth. Now it is not written in stone that French Onion Soup must be made with beef broth but most of them are. I was flush with freshly made chicken stock, however. Luckily, I recalled the recipe in my Balthazar cookbook that calls for chicken stock. (I also recalled the bowl I had the last time I was lucky enough to be eating there! Mmm…..)
When making this be sure leave yourself enough time so you don’t rush the onions. You aren’t required to cook them down until chocolate brown (like Julia’s) but you cannot rush them on their way to being golden brown or you will not do the soup justice. The recipe says 30 minutes but it took mine almost an hour to get to the desired golden shade. This is just going to be a function of the onions you select with the sweeter onion varieties taking less time. If you get impatient, add 1/2 teaspoon sugar (but I wish you wouldn’t).
BALTHAZAR’S ONION SOUP GRATINEE
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
4 medium yellow onions, peeled, halved through the stem end, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, peeled and thinly sliced
4 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 TBS AP white flour
2 quarts Chicken Stock
1/2 cup port
6 slices of country bread, about 1 inch thick, toasted
2 cups Gruyere cheese, coarsely grated
In a 5-quart Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot, heat the olive oil over a medium flame. Add the onions and, stirring frequently to prevent burning, saute until they reach a golden color, approximately 30 minutes. Add the butter, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the white wine, bring to a boil, and reduce the wine by half, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1 TBS flour and mix well. I added this as it makes for a richer soup – a technique borrowed from Julia’s version.
Preheat the broiler. Remove the thyme sprigs and bay leaf, and swirl the port into the finished soup. Ladle the soup into 6 ovenproof bowls. Fit the toasted bread into the bowls on top of the liquid, and sprinkle 1/3 cup of Gruyère onto each slice.
Place under the broiler for 3 minutes, or until the cheese melts to a crispy golden brown. Allow the soup to cool slightly, about 3 minutes, before serving. Garnish with chopped flat leaf parsley.