This autumn, we're told by the Stuttgarters, has been unseasonably mild. Each time this marvel pops up — in church, from a new acquaintance, at a social event — I wince. Outfitted in new boots and a heavy coat, I have endured the German fall just fine. Please don't tell me this isn't normal! It feels bearable so far!
It only makes me dread winter more.
So when Ron brought up French Onion Soup during a solicitation for dinner suggestions, I embraced the idea. Soup embodies all that is good about winter. Like flannel pajamas and a dusting of snowflakes, simmering soup is the fairy-tale version of the dreaded dark season. And what better source to turn to than Smitten Kitchen (a delightful NYC-based food blogger) and Julia Child (who needs no introduction).
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's adaptation of Julia Child's classic:
- 5-6 cups of sliced onions (the more uniformly thin, the better, or else you'll be waiting like me for the bigger pieces to catch up with the slivers!)
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons of flour
- 1/2 cup dry vermouth (or dry white wine, or skip altogether)
- 1 to 2 quarts beef stock, plus any necessary water to make it 2 quarts total
- 3 tablespoons cognac
- 2 cups grated Emmentaler cheese (or Swiss, Parmesan, gruyere, even mozzarella in a pinch)
Uncover and add a sprinkle of salt and sugar (about 1/4 teaspoon each). It's easy to add more salt later, but rather difficult to un-salt a dish! (Warning: I do like less salt than most, so salt to your own tastes as you go.)
Raise the heat until the onions are sizzling lightly but not at the risk of burning at all. Let them cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring often. I waited until minute 31 or so before I finally saw the deep brown color emerging. Patience, Brianne!
You are looking for a uniform deep brown. I confess I gave up toward the end, and some pale soft onions made their way into the soup. And it was still divine.
Then add the flour and stir for a few minutes so it all absorbs. Add the dry vermouth (or use dry white wine) and then the stock/water. I add a few cups, raise the heat, wait until the simmering catches up, then add a few more cups, until the whole 2 quarts are added and the pot is simmering happily away. Add pepper (a bunch of grinding for me) and salt (another sprinkle or two).
Let it simmer for another 30-40 minutes, though if you must, you can dive in earlier.
This is a good time to toast the slices of baguette. We just put slices under the broiler and wait until they are nicely browned at the edges. Remove them from the oven. They can join you in the wait for the soup. Tick, tock, tick, tock.
Whenever you are too eager to wait any longer, add the cognac to the soup. (Mom, you can skip this part, and even the wine/vermouth step earlier.)
Now ladle soup into oven-proof bowls. (We use these.) Add a slice or two of toast on top. Sprinkle with grated cheese, or cheese slices stretched across the bowl, lip to lip, forming a sort of blanket. Slip the bowls under the broil, and wait until the cheese is beautifully bubbly and melted.
Sip and savor! Winter, bring it on!