The arrival of fall is welcome for so many reasons, one of which is the smell of delicious soups bubbling on the stove. Soup is one of the more simple things to cook, basically stuff of some sort with liquid of some sort. Now I'm sure there are people out there who have very refined palettes with matching vocabulary that would argue with my simple description, but you can't eat words, although at times I'm sure we all wish we or someone else could. I don't feel a strong desire to create elaborate descriptions of good food, I just want to eat it!
I think a lot of people are intimidated by what they perceive to be the difficult task of cooking a meal. Like all things, it takes some practice to have good knife skills and a nose that can distinguish between oregano and thyme. French Onion Soup, fortunately, is one of the most simple meals to make.
To begin with drink a glass of wine. Yes, the whole glass. Your creations take on your personality, and if you are all bent up and fearful of making mistakes, it shows in your results. Have you finished your wine? Go ahead, chug it, I'll wait.
Now, take a soothing stroll through the garden and gather your onions and thyme. Don't have a garden? Maybe another glass of wine? I'm serious about this relaxing stuff!
Now that you are relaxed (and maybe a little tipsy), lets break out the knives. Knives are the most basic of tools in the kitchen. Just like a carpenter has a hammer for nails and a screwdriver for screws, different knives do better at some tasks than others. You wouldn't want to hammer a nail with a screwdriver, so why would you cut an onion with a steak knife from DollarTree? Those cheap steak knives are great for slicing tomatoes, but really inefficient, bordering on dangerous, when cutting an onion. Use a big knife with a wide blade and make sure it is SHARP. Dull knives are frustrating because they don't cut, and often slip which has the potential of being really unpleasant. Here is a link to a youtube video on very basic knife skills.
So lets get started! The basic instructions are as follows: Drink a glass of wine, slice the onions, caramelize the onions, add the broth, let the flavors marry (so romantic), make some toast, put it all in a bowl, smother with cheese and devour. Make sure the person you want to kiss tonight has had a glass of wine and eats the soup too, it lowers their objection to the onion breath :)
French Onion Soup
4 TBSP Butter
4 pounds of red onions, or a mix of red, yellow and sweet (6-8 medium onions)
4 32oz boxes of beef broth
4 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried
2 Bay leaves
Salt and Pepper
8 Slices of bread
8 oz Gruyere or Swiss cheese
In a large soup pot, over medium heat, melt the butter. Slice onions into 1/4" slices, adding to the pot as you go and very lightly salting. Let cook for about 45 minutes to caramelize (get soft and start to turn brown), stirring every 15 minutes or so... not too much. Hopefully you get some golden goodness stuck to the bottom of the pot, but if not, no worries, it will still taste fabulous! Pour in a container of beef broth and scrape up any goodies on the bottom. Add the remaining beef broth, thyme, bay leaves and a light grind of pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer for about 30-45 minutes without the lid (you want the flavors to concentrate).
Heat your oven to 200 degrees and place the slices of bread on a rack to dry out for about 30 minutes, turning once. Or if your toaster really dries out your bread, use that instead... mine only makes an impression of being toasted or briquettes. Stale bread is great for this step!
Here is where things get tricky... I'm telling you it is complicated!!! Traditional French Onion soup is placed under the broiler to get the cheese all gooey and messy. However, I do not have fancy schmancy oven proof bowls, so I had to get ingenious, (all right, it's not all that clever, but it is a workaround). Take those dried out pieces of toast you made, carefully pile on cheese slices and put under the broiler for about 2 minutes, until the cheese gets good and gooey. Now pour some soupy goodness in a bowl and top with your cheesy toast... wait a moment before you eat it, cheese burns are not fun!
I always like to make big batches of soup so it is available for lunch or the freezer, but I understand that not everyone likes to do that. Below are the ingredients for 2 servings, and I'm sure you can do the math to adjust that for whatever your needs are. Now go chow down!
French Onion Soup Ingredients per 2 servings:
1 Tbsp Butter
1 pound of onion, about 2 medium*
1 32oz container beef broth
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried
1/2 bay leaf
2 slices of bread
2 oz Gruyere or Swiss Cheese
*Note, it won't take as long for a smaller batch of onions to caramelize.