Friday, October 4, 2013

French Onion Soup #FOOLPROOF

OK.  This is really stupid easy.  Time consuming, but easy.  If you can melt butter and stir you are done.  Allow ample time, 60-75 minutes for the caramelizing process.  Total time from start to finish comes close to two hours start to finish.

The key to this is really watching the caramelizing of the onions and  near constant stirring towards the end so you don't fry the onions or scorch them.  On the latter a heavy, non-stick interior pan makes it a little more fool proof.

I do take a few short cuts, and they are potentially laden with salt.  First is buy cooking sherry that doesn't come with salt added, it can be found.  Most of what you find in the groc is very high in sodium so do be careful with this step.  Beef or vegetable stocks can be high in sodium too, read the labels and get low sodium as well.  Also, with vegetable stock be careful as many add MSG or mono-sodium glutamate to boost their flavor, its not a good thing as many are allergic to it OR it can cause migraines which it does for me.

Meatless this recipe counts if you use the vegetable stock.  Look for a vegetable stock that includes mushrooms for a richer flavor...or make your own.  I think I'll have to dust off my mushroom veggie stock recipe and post here as its really "meaty" in flavor without the meat produces used in its making.

Slice the onions thin. The thinner the better as it speeds up the caramelizing process.  Don't have that handy dandy hand held mandolin yet?  This recipe is the one to go out and find one as there are a LOT of onions to thinly slice.

Butter is used primarily as it browns better than oils do.  Worried about the saturated fat?  Then use a good olive oil.  The second reason butter is used comes to flavor, again olive oil will add flavor as well, not the same but as tasty. Vegetable oils are too neutral and just don't add in the flavor you are looking for.

This may sound like a lot of soup, but the onions do cook down a lot.  It makes 6 appetizer sized servings or doubled up for 3 entree servings.

French Onion Soup

  • 3 lbs Onions- thin sliced
  • 2 shallots- thin sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic-minced
  • 4 T butter
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/3 c sherry
  • 1 T Red wine vinegar
  • 32 oz (4 C) low sodium beef broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 sprigs flat leaf parsley
  • Swiss cheese slices (presliced packaged works fine)
  • sliced baguette

In large heavy bottom pot melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, shallots, garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper.  Stir occasionally at first, more often at the end until they are a deep golden brown. Towards the end you may need to reduce the heat to low to prevent burning or scorching. Color is flavor and this step can't be hurried.  Allow 60-75 minutes for this step.  

When your onions are a deep golden brown add sherry and vinegar.  Stir until nearly all is evaporated, about 3-5 minutes.

Tie together thyme and parsley with kitchen string.  Add beef broth.  Simmer uncovered 20-25 minutes until it has reduced by a cup to cup-and-a-half.   Test for seasoning, add more salt if needed. During the simmer stage preheat oven to 450F.  Slice and toast baguette.  Slice cheese.

At end of simmer remove bay leaf and the herb bundle.  Discard.  Ladle soup into serving dishes.  Top with baguette slice(s) and 2 pieces of cheese.  Place serving bowls on a baking sheet for easier handling.  Bake in oven 6-8 minutes until cheese is melted and starting to brown.  Serve piping hot with additional bread for dipping if desired.

It looks like a lot of onions at the start, but they do shrink down considerably as they cook.  Stir occasionally at the beginning using care not to break up the rings.

When the caramelization process is nearly complete you will need to stir more often so as not to scorch or fry your onion mixture. Watch carefully as you may need to reduce your heat.
Layer toasted baguette onto the soup.  Top with cheese.  Note the baking dish does make it easier to get in or out of the oven without spilling.  It also will catch and bubble ups and dribbles so you don't trash out your oven floor.

All melted and edges starting to brown, perfect soup for a cool fall day's dinner.  Beef broth is best, for a Meatless Monday option use a mushroom rich vegetable stock.

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