Saturday, March 5, 2011

French Onion Soup

I stink at planning ahead for the week's meals, you'd think with No ReEATS I'd have to be better at it, but I'm not.  I end up at the grocery store a few times a week grabbing ingredients I don't have for my most recent cooking craving or "science fair experiment" as the boy calls it.  I keep telling myself I'll be better, I'll plan buy everything in one trip and make it all work regardless of what I forget.  I haven't gotten there yet.

One day last week, early on the in the day when I started to think about what to make for dinner, I made a conscious decision that whatever I made had to utilize ingredients I already had.  That truly shouldn't ever be a problem as I have a very well stocked pantry, I generally buy more produce than I need when I do shop and I have a freezer with all kinds of meat in it.  With that in mind I knew I could do it, and remembered the huge bag of onions I have on our back porch (also known as our extended refrigerator in the winter).  I had also been meaning to make a beef stock and had all the bones and stew beef in the freezer waiting to be transformed in a flavorful stock.  At that point I knew I'd be trying my hand at French Onion Soup.  You may notice that I used dried thyme in this recipe, I normally would use fresh but since I didn't have any dry it was and honestly they thyme is so cooked into the onions and soup that you don't even miss the fresh.

French Onion Soup
serves 4

2 lbs yellow onions
1 lb red onions
4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp dried thyme
1/3 cup brandy
2 Tbsps flour
6-8 cup beef stock or broth
1 bay leaf
sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
4 slices of crusty bread
block of French Emmethaler - half sliced and half grated

1.  Heat and 8 quart pot over medium low heat.  Add in the butter, once it's melted add in the thinly slice onions.  Gently toss to coat in butter.  Lower heat to low and cook onions over low for 3-4 hours, gently stirring every 15-20 minutes. After about an hour add in 1 tsp of dried thyme.
2.  Once the onions are cooked and have fully caramelized and turned a deep rich brown, bring the heat up to medium low, sprinkle the flour over top, stir to combine the onions and flour and let cook for 5 minutes. Carefully pour in the brandy to deglaze the pan.  Let simmer for 5-10 minutes to cook off the alcohol.
3.  Add in the beef stock or broth, bay leaf and the rest of the thyme.  Bring to a simmer over medium low and let simmer half-covered for about an hour.  Taste and adjust season with salt and pepper.
4.  Preheat the broiler and place the rock in the top third of the oven. Lightly toast the crusty bread in the toaster, so that is crisp but not browned.
5. Ladle the soup into oven proof bowls float the toasted bread on top.  Cover with slices of cheese, so some part hangs over the edge or else it will all melt into the bowl.  top the cheese slices with some grated cheese.
6. Place the bowls on a cookie sheet and under the broiler.  Broil until the cheese is melted and golden brown.  My broiler is not the best so it takes about 15 minutes, know your broiler and watch carefully.

This was absolutely the winner I'd hoped it would be with the boy. Rich and flavorful with the crusty topping of cheese and toast was absolutely perfect.  I have to admit I did run out to pick up the Emmenthaler, we almost always have a Swiss or Gruyere of Comte in the fridge and when I realized it the onions were already on their was to being caramelized.  So I broke my rule just a bit, but the resulting soup was so amazing I think it's ok.  For a side I made a delicious beet and carrot salad with some amazing organic beets I got at the Brickworks Farmers Market last weekend.

If you're looking for one last hearty dish as the cold weather starts to fade I highly giving this soup a go.  I also think if you pick up some of the Kitchen Basic's All-Natural Veggie Stock you could easily make this a vegetarian dish.  Their stock is so rich and dark in color that it will look the same and I bet taste delicious.  Even subbing the butter, not that I have any idea why a sane person would want to do that, but if you must sub it for oil and nix the cheese and you'll have a vegan soup. It's a really easy recipe to adjust to your needs.


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