French Onion Soup
Filled with tears, blood shed and triumph, this entry has all the makings of a blockbuster thriller. I bet you didn’t realize french onion soup could be so exciting.
Last week we took a “Knife Skills Masterclass” at the Bowery Culinary Center as part of my Christmas present from none other than the love of my life. Most people questioned our decision to enroll in such a dangerous course that involved sharp objects…and for the tragically clumsy couple that we are, “dangerous” is not an overexaggeration. It might as well have been a course for mincing garlic midair with samurai swords.
Like clockwork, he managed to slice a hefty chunk of his knuckle skin within the first fifteen minutes of class. It was only his second stalk of celery. Classic. There was a lot of blood shed which caused the entire class to pause while two assistants brought him an army supply of band-aids. His finger wouldn’t stop bleeding so I helped him out while everyone continued on to carrots. Alas, the bleeding was under control and we were back in sync with the rest of the class. We managed to survive through the onions and potatoes, which in my opinion, are the more dangerous vegetables with all its shapes and high propensity to wobble.
Next on the agenda were herbs – piece of cake! Or so I thought. It ended up being more like a piece of finger. And yes, it was my turn. I was mincing parsley and managed to slice the edge of my finger diagonally and into the middle of my nail bed. More blood shed. More pauses. More band-aids. And in two slices, we officially broke the instructor’s record for injuries in a three-hour time frame in all his courses. What an honor!
So what does this all have to do with french onion soup? Well have you seen the craftsmanship in the slices of our red onions? Duh! We’ve been practicing! Our tiny apartment was filled with the aroma of raw onions as we cried and sliced our way to perfection. Okay, so we’re not quite there yet but we haven’t made a trip to the emergency room yet and that’s a world of improvement!
|6||large red onions, sliced thinly|
|8||cup beef broth|
|1||cup red wine|
|1||bouquet garni (rosemary, thyme & bay leaf tied together)|
|8||slices of gruyère, fontina or muenster|
|8||slices of sourdough bread, trimmed to fit in the opening of the soup crock|
|salt & pepper|
|brandy or cognac (optional)|
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, melt butter with 2Tbsp of olive oil over low to medium heat. Line the bottom of the pan with a single layer of onions. Sprinkle a little salt over the onions and add another layer. Repeat the process until all the onions are in the skillet. DO NOT STIR. The key to caramelizing onions is not stirring them. Allow onions to sweat (about 25 minutes) then stir them around just a little. Allow to caramelize for about 45 minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the sourdough bread on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until they are hard. Remove from oven and set aside your sourdough crostini. Once the onions have reached a deep brown color, add the red wine to deglaze the pan. Simmer until the wine has been reduced to half. Add beef broth and bouquet garni. Mix thoroughly and simmer for another 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add a few drizzles of brandy and simmer for another minute. French onion soup is best the following day. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- When ready to serve, remove the bouquet garni and reheat the soup. Next, ladle soup into individual oven-safe crocks and float one piece of sourdough crostini on top. Place a single slice of cheese over each soup and heat in the oven for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Once the cheese has melted, remove from oven and serve immediately.