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Monday, March 4, 2013

French Onion Soup

A rich beef broth enhanced by red wine, fresh thyme, caramelized onions, toasted French bread croutons and gooey melty cheese! Comfort food extraordinaire! YUM!!! 

      • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
      • 1 1/2 Tbsp butter
      • 1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
      • ~ 2 tsp fresh thyme, stripped off of the stems
      • ~ 1 Tbsp flour
      • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
      • 1/2 cup red wine
      • 2 cups low sodium beef broth
      • salt and pepper to taste
      • handful of fresh mozzarella cut into cubes, or grated mozzarella
      • 4 slices of cheese (I recommend Gruyere, but you can also use Swiss or Provolone)
      • 2 thick slices of French bread

    Slice the onions thinly and uniformly.
    Heat saucepan over med-high heat, then add both butter and olive oil.  Add onions and sweat them until caramelized down to darkish brown color (~ 20 min or more). 
    Here is the progression you can expect.  You will go from having a whole pan full of firm, crisp onions....
    to soft but still white....
    to buttery soft with caramel coloring.  Expect this to take a minimum of about 15 minutes. 
    Add flour, stir into onions, and cook several minutes. 
    We are essentially creating a roux with the hot fat and the flour.  This will thicken the broth part of the soup.  You want to cook this until it's not "floury" in taste.
    Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about a minute).  Your fire should be low... please don't burn the garlic!
    Add wine to deglaze and cook until thick and bubbly. Deglazing just means that we are adding liquid to this pan, which brings up all those caramelized yummies on the bottom of the pan.  They will essentially all dissolve into the liquid, thereby making ourselves a gravy of sorts.  
    Yes.  The wine will turn it pink (for now).  Don't worry, it won't stay that way.  You won't have to explain to your husband why you are serving him "pink soup!" =)  Can you see how thick it is?  That's because of the roux that we 'built' in there.
    Slowly add beef stock.  Incorporate well into the all the pinkness! 
    While bringing your stock up to a boil now, add in the fresh thyme leaves.  I suppose you could use dried thyme, but I almost always have the fresh stuff growing in my garden.  If you use dried, you will NOT need as much.  Dried herbs are much more pungent.
    Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.
    Cook for a while until you reach the desired consistency.  Give the flavors time to develop.  You can continue here (or freeze) this soup until its time to serve later.  See, I told you it wouldn't stay pink!
    Ladle the hot soup into bowls and add toasted bread.   * If soup is too thick when time to serve, you can just add a little more stock or water, and a little more wine.

    Now for my bread...
    I am not a big fan of just having one big piece of toasted French bread on top.  I don't like wrestling with it... and trying to separate one bite from the rest.  So to circumvent this, I cut my bread into nice chunks.  Maybe the size of 1" cubes.  That way, I can get one bite at a time.  But hey - do it however you fancy it!
    Throw them in a pan and put them under the broiler until nice and toasted.
    Soup assembly for serving:
    So this may just be my cheese fetish, but I enjoy having chunks of mozzarella in my soup.  For one thing, melty cheese is heavenly to me.  But additionally, I think the cheese creates a waxy layer that helps to prevent the bread from getting soggy too quickly.
    Add the toasted bread cubes.
    Add your top cheese layer and put in oven under the broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly.  After all, what is French Onion Soup without melted cheese smothering the whole thing?!
    Garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme.

    Food Nerd Notes:
    Onions have long been a part of cooking, and were often identified as food used by the poor since they stored well, grew easily and were plentiful.   The legend of the creation of this soup is that King Louis XV or XIV of France created the dish at his hunting lodge after returning from a hunt and finding the cupboard bare of much beyond some stale bread, onions and champagne.

    Classic French onion soup begins with beef stock.  Onions are sliced thin and then caramelized, which allows them to become sweet. They are then added to the heated stock. A little red wine may also be added to the stock to yield a richer flavor.   Often, the soup is topped with a toasted crouton, and then is layered with swiss (typically Gruyere) cheese. The soup may be placed in ramekins or oven proof crocks so the cheese gets bubbly, brown and melty, when broiled for a minute or two, before being served. When served in large portions, the heartiness and richness of French onion soup is a meal in itself. It can also make a lovely beginning soup course when served in smaller portions. 

    You can make a vegetarian version of the soup by omitting beef stock and using a hearty vegetable stock instead. Moreover, you can use tofu cheese or omit the cheese entirely for vegans. If you don’t have time to chop and caramelize onions, there are a few good canned versions of the soup.

    Cooking icon, Julia Child is said to have eaten French Onion Soup as her last meal before she died.  I can't say that I disagree with that at all!!

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    Written Method:
    Heat saucepan over med-high heat, then add both butter and olive oil.  Add onions and sweat them until caramelized down to darkish brown color (~ 15 min or more).  Add flour, stir into onions, and cook a couple of minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about a minute).  Add wine to deglaze and cook until thick and bubbly.  Slowly add beef stock.  Season to taste with fresh thym, salt and pepper.  Cook for a while until you reach the desired consistency.  Ladle broth into bowls and add toasted bread.  Top with cheese and put in oven under the broiler until cheese is melted and bubbly.  If stock is too thick when time to serve, add a little more stock or water, and a little more wine. 


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    2. Caramelized onions, buttery Basmati rice, and melty Gruyère—what’s to not like about this combo.Best recipes of onion french onion rice


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