Saturday, October 27, 2007

Onions are a Girl's Best Friend

sometimes, we get jazzed by something we saw on television or experienced somewhere and try to emulate it. in this instance for tonight, we were fired up by both. i got onion soup gratinee in a bread bowl at panera one afternoon and shared bites with my sons. they adored it and asked when we could get it again. we also got really fired up about it when we were watching a TYLER'S ULTIMATE show on onion soup during a rainy afternoon and we all watched this as if it was the greatest film ever made, except we were salivating. i have my share of cookbooks that have wonderful soups in them. tonight, we did something very warming and homey. FRENCH ONION SOUP from THE DAILY SOUP COOKBOOK by Leslie Kaul, Bob Spiegel, Carla Ruben and Peter Siegel with Robin Vitetta-Miller. The Daily Soup is a restaurant, or was (i haven't checked lately) and there's a definite Soup Nazi vibe to the cookbook -- which i mean in a good way. this restaurant takes their soups seriously and so do i. i LOVE soup. another hand me down trait from my dad. and i like to go through the trouble to make them. not everybody does and i respect that. but if you do, here's one of the classics for you. it's a goody.

1 tbs peanut oil
1 tbs unsalted butter
3 lrg spanish onion, halved and thinly sliced
3 lrg red onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tbs sugar
2 tsps dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 tsps kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup tawny port
8 cups basic veggie stock (recipe in book)
1 (3-inch) piece parmesan cheese rind
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
1 sourdough baguette, cut crosswise, into 1-inch rounds and lightly toasted
2 cups grated gruyere cheese

what to do:
1. preheat the oven to 400ºF.
2. combine the oil. butter, onions and sugar in a large roasting pan. place in the oven and roast for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until the onions are tender and golden brown.
3. transfer the onions to a large stockpot over medium heat.
4. add the thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper and stir to coat the onions.
5. add the port and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.
6. add the stock and parmesan rind and bring the mixture to a boil.
7. reduce heat, partially cover and simmer 30 minutes.
8. stir in the grated parmesan, balsamic vinegar and garlic.
9. preheat the broiler.
10. remove the bay leaves and ladle the soup into bowls.
11. top each bowl with a sourdough round.
12. top with the grated gruyere cheese and place under thebroiler. broil until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 3 minutes.

there's a variation suggestion i will mention at the end.

here's what we did:
instead of vegetable stock we used beef broth. it added a fullness of flavor and weightyness for such a cold evening. we scooped out three sourdough rounds and used them as bowls, which added to the whole experience for the kids for sure and was very yum. roasting the onions brought up their sweetness which gets a boost from the sugar. a note about sugar and cooking: we always use superfine sugar, or caster sugar, to the "in the know." it bakes up well, cooks up well and since we began using it about 6 years ago, i haven't used anything else. we also used french bread rounds instead of sourdough, because, well, just because. i dunno. just an impulse buy. it happens. and it worked out well.

it seems awfully "highbrow", perhaps, to have two sons who swoon over french onion soup. but, really, they just love the bread, the cheese and the flavors underneath. it's a little like a grilled cheese soup sandwich. they don't even notice the onions of it all, although they like the idea of the onions and that they're eating them.

as we were eating, nicholas turned to me and said, "ya know what would be good in this? chicken. could we do this with chicken sometime?"

i gazed at him in awe and told him, "what's so funny, sweetheart, is that's a suggestion in the recipe."

here's the variation The Daily Soup had on the page:
substitute blonde chicken stock (for which they have a recipe) for the veggie stock. poach 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in gently simmering water for 10 minutes. drain and, when cool enough to handle, cut into 2-inch cubes. add to the soup at step 6 and proceed as directed.

my son, the instinctual chef.
of course we'll do chicken next time.
who am i to deny such wonderful culinary insight?


Stace said...

blonde chicken stock, hee hee hee.

Stace said...

p.s. that sounds seriously delicious.

PalateScriber said...

i thought the blonde chicken stock was pretty hysterical as well. tried something different this afternoon -- sauteeing about 4 oz of shrimp in some garlic, olive oil and a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. i added it to the soup and had that for lunch with a bit of the spinach. oh, yeah... YUM!!! so much fun to play with this.