Tuesday, February 2, 2010

French Onion Soup

Apparently, based on the comments I am hearing about this week's soup selection, the entire free world loves and craves good french onion soup. I myself - not so much. Why did I include this illustrious soup in the line up one might ask...Marty can be counted in among the entire free world category - he loves it. I have never made it before - not once. I know he likes it though because he orders it in restaurants. What I can glean from his experiences at these establishments about onion soup are it is either great or not worth finishing. He always seems to manage to eat the cheese and bread on top, but he does not always slurp down the last bit of soup. Seems strange to me that it would be difficult to make a dish with practically one ingredient - poorly. I decided it was time to test my soup making merit on this classic - not only for you wonderful Wednesday soup fans (I didn't even have a following yet when I made the list of soups) - but I included it for Marty.

That I placed in February close to Valentines day was just a fluke - I am not that corny. Moreover it's placement during the week leading up to the COLTS Superbowl appearance probably earns me more endearing points in Marty's book ...however I could not have predicted that either and had I attempted to predict that the COLTS would still be in the running at this point in the season and had the COLTS fallen short of that goal I personally would have gotten the blame for Jinxing their entire season - yes I have that kind of power over the National Football League - it is a little known fact but the things that I say or even think about the COLTS can help them or jinx them so I always have to be very careful in that arena.

Back to this weeks soup story...onions. If you are sick and tired of hearing your kids fight .... if you need just an hour or so of peace and quiet .... ladies, grab a ten pound bag of onions and a butcher knife. I am serious - your family will run for the hills. Brigid ran out of the kitchen and up to her room door slamming behind her when she saw me pull out those onions. I heard her screaming something like "No Mommy...No!" as she left. At this point I think my neighbors were speed dialing child protective services. Mary is a different bird. She sat down at the counter and asked if she could help me chop. I said sweetly, "No honey, but you can keep Mommy company while I work." What a wonderful mommy ruse!! That sweet little 5 year old really tried to stick it out for a while too - maybe twenty minutes or so before she looked at me with those huge, puffy, red watery eyes and said "I think I'll go see what Brigid is doing." At some point Marty came through hands over his face asking for mercy - he too retreated to Brigid's room where they all spent some wonderful family time huddled in blankets next to an open window. I plugged in my I pod to the player, opened the window and relaxed while I chopped chopped chopped. AHHHH...peace and quiet cooking in the kitchen.

Once I got all the onions chopped, into the oven to caramelize for three hours, and the kitchen cleaned up, the second reason no one ever makes this soup at home hit me right in the nose. While you may initially think that the smell of onions cooking is pleasant and appealing - try smelling it for 3 full hours at 400 degrees. And the oven caramelization method is kinder than stove top at least in that your olfactory glands are not being forced to stand over the pot while you stir. We went about the rest of our business as usual that Sunday evening having dinner, making lunches and coffee for the next day, packing backpacks and tote bags and finally sitting down to a bit of TV. Before retiring for the night I turned off the onions to let them cool off, covered overnight. At 3am I awoke from a terrible dream. I dreamt I could not catch my breath. When I awoke I smelled the onions. It was as though I had been gone on a long vacation and returned home to take that first whiff of air as you walk through your front door when your house has been closed up for a week and your like..."so this is what our house smells like to strangers" except that it was horrible. In the morning I as I unwrapped and packaged up my perfectly caramelized onions into the fridge I could not wait to get out into the fresh air and walk the dogs. Whew. The smell PERMEATES absolutely everything. By 7am as I sat down to start up my computer at work I realized the extent of this last statement when my coworker Ray said to me - "What is that smell?" and I realized it was me. All day long I subjected poor innocent souls to the Au du Onion perfume I was sporting that day. I called Marty and begged him to Febreeze the children thoroughly before sending them to school lest they be the object of elementary school ridicule all day. I stopped by "Whole (Paycheck) Foods" on the way home and invested part of the days earnings on various incense to try to overpower the enormous odor when I returned home. I got one bundle of herbs called a "smudge". This grouping of cedar and sage and lavender said that it would clear the room of unwanted odors if I burned it. It sure did clear the room of the unwanted odors. I lit the smudge and now the room smelled as though we were smoking a peace pipe - a big fully loaded pipe - with Native Americans. Too bad it didn't feel like that to me as well unfortunately I was still stressed and the house still reeked. Next I lit the less expensive even more pungent Changa sticks...

The moral of the story - Never try to mask the smell 10 lbs of cooked onions with incense or your house will smell like cooked onions AND incense. Also never make French Onion Soup at home...order it at your favorite restaurant. IF you are lucky you will get a bowl worth slurping to the last drop or if not - at least eat the cheese and the bread. If you are like my children and choose not to listen and learn from me - here is the illustrious French Onion soup recipe which is from Cooks Illustrated Magazine...

3 TBLS unsalted butter

6 Large yellow onions (I found the Safeway Organics bag to be the most economical at 1.50/bag and the best quality as well) halfed and sliced pole to pole.


2 Cups Water plus extra for deglazing

4 Cups low sodium chicken broth

2 Cups beef broth

1/4 cup dry sherry

6 sprigs Thyme bundled with kitchen twine

1 bay leaf

ground black pepper

croutons/toasted baguette

swiss cheese/asiago cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Place butter, onions and salt in large oven safe dutch oven pot coated generously with cooking spray and cook covered in oven for 1 hour.

Remove pot from oven and stir onions sraping bottom and sides of pot. Return pot to oven with lid slightly ajar for another 1.5 to 2 hours.

Remove pot from oven and place over medium high heat on stove top.

Deglaze onions stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot until very little liquid remains and onions are brwning nicely. Add 1/2 cup water scraping fond off bottom of pot and deglaze again. Deglaze a third time. Should take a total of 30 to 45 minutes for a nice dark brown color to develop.

Add 1/4 cup sherry and stir until liquid is reduced by half.

Stir in broths, water, and herb bundle. Scrape any remaining fond from bottom of pot and bring soup to boil. Reduce to simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Remove herbs. Ladel soup into broiler proof crocks. Top each with croutons or toasted baguetter and cheese. Put under broiler long enough to melt cheese and make it slightly browned and bubbly. Serve immediately. Slurp down the whole bowl not just the cheese and bread!