French Onion Soup and I go way back. Ok, not actually that far back but it is one of my favorites. The transformation the onions go through from being the strong, harsh, onion flavor to going to a soup that sole ingredient is onion but not tasting anything like onion but a sweet, savory and flavorful bowl of broth and stringy strands of burnt onions just blows my mind.
I had a craving for french onion soup months ago. Just kind of a passing thought that it would be great as the weather started dipping lower. I'd find myself thinking about it in the kitchen at work when making soup in the morning for lunch or whenever I was sauteing onions for a dish. I started thinking of ways of how I could serve it in a cafeteria out of a soup kettle on a buffet line.
I wanted some french onion soup. The last time I had made it for Abbie and I (she doesn't remember ever having it, how heartbreaking, I know!) we ended up with a lot left. I blame that on myself and only ever making it by the 5 pounds of onions per batch. Needless to say I was hesitant to make it for just the two of us. I asked my mother-in-law, Tammy if her and Steve like it. She asked when she could come over and have it. I figured I was good to go. Plans didn't work out that night, so I let the idea fall again. Three days later I'm pheasant hunting and doing what I do when I'm passing time, thinking of dinner. I was once again determined to go to the store and buy more onions to make sure I would have enough!
I get home and start in on the soup. I would give out a recipe but I don't measure anything when I make it. I know it was about 2.5# of onions, a stick of butter, salt, pepper, chicken and beef base, a bay leaf, thyme and some red wine.
I start out by slowly melting my butter in my biggest pot- better safe than sorry! I melt it slowly so I don't brown the milk fat that starts to separate as the butter clarifies. Skim the fat solids out and you're ready to start caramelizing your onions -yes caramelizing. I am lazy and slice my onions while the butter is melting but if I were a good little chef I would have them already to go before I even start melting the butter or just have a supply of clarified butter but different people prefer different ways of mise en placing. I also think dicing the onions works better than slicing the onions into thin rounds, it makes less of mess on your chin while you eat it.
One must be patient while caramelizing onions. One can get excited and not let the onions sit on the heat long enough. Sure they break down and get soft and change flavor but they don't change to the flavor we want. We want dark brown but not burnt onions. We want the sugars to be stuck to the bottom of the pan (don't use your nice non-stick pot or you just ruined it!) this is where a lot of your flavor comes from. Let the onions sit, turn them occasionally, be patient. There is no such thing as a good soup that can be done quickly, take your time and let flavors develop.
When the onions have done their best, and so have you for letting them do theirs, take the onions out of the pot and put them in a bowl. Then take some red wine and water and deglaze the bottom of the pot. I'll add my chicken and beef stock, stir the onions back in, add my spices and let it simmer. Once hot I will taste and adjust seasoning as needed. I start off weak and just add until it tastes like how I want it to taste.
To serve I put the soup in coffee mugs(I wish I had fancier stoneware or even Corningware but the coffee mugs work), topped with croutons then put some swiss cheese on top. I slide the cups under the broiler until the cheese is gooey and marvelous then enjoy!
Sorry I do not have a picture. I didn't think to write about the soup until after we had eaten it all. Thanks for sharing my passion - or is it obsession at this point?