Wednesday, May 7, 2008

May 7: French Onion Soup

Man oh man, what a dilemma. French onion soup can be rich, sumptuous, the best possible kind of comfort food. Or it can be salty, one-note, tired, and covered in congealed, poor-quality cheese. When you order it in a restaurant, you never know what you're going to get.

What's the answer? Make it at home. It's not difficult, and it's made mostly of things you have around the house (and I promise I'll get around to that Advanced Pantry still). It's a great Sunday afternoon lunch for a rainy day, maybe with a little salad and a tall glass of milk.

You need the right bowls for this--heavy crockery that can take the heat of the broiler. There are special French onion crocks with handles that make handling a scorching-hot bowl a little easier. Either way, as my son says, be safe, be careful. French onion soup can make for some impressive burns.

This is awesome: I'm watching the Nationals game while I write this: Paul LoDuca got hit in the already-injured hand with a pitch and is clearly in quite a bit of pain. A knucklehead fan from the other team (The Houston Assholes, I mean the Astros) gave him some crap as he went back to the dugout, and security came and escorted this fine gentleman and his knuckle-dragging ape of a buddy from the ballpark. This has nothing to do with soup. This has to do with me and how much I love baseball.

French Onion Soup

2 lb medium onions, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced lengthwise
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dry white wine
4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth (32 fl oz)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal slices of baguette
1 (1/2-lb) piece Gruyère, Comte, or Emmental
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Cook onions, thyme, bay leaves, and salt in butter in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and deep golden brown, about 45 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in broth, water, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

While soup simmers, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Arrange bread in 1 layer on a large baking sheet and toast, turning over once, until completely dry, about 15 minutes.

Remove croûtes from oven and preheat broiler. Put crocks in a shallow baking pan.

Discard bay leaves and thyme from soup and divide soup among crocks, then float a croûte in each. Slice enough Gruyère (about 6 ounces total) with cheese plane or very sharp knife to cover tops of crocks, allowing ends of cheese to hang over rims of crocks, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat until cheese is melted and bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes.


charcuteire said...

Make your own beef broth, it will improve the flavor immensly, plus you control how much salt there is.


Neen said...

I went to my very first baseball game of all time at the new Nationals stadium last week. It was amazing. That said, if we had a tv, I wouldn't be able to imagine anything better than skipping out on the $7.50 crappy beer and making homemade soup at home while watching the game. Sounds like a lovely, homey way to spend the evening.