Thursday, September 22, 2011

French Onion Soup

Life is a series of trying the same sequence of buttons over and over until you get it right or run out of do-overs.

Oh there's some other stuff about free will but that's mostly a bug in the system that no one pays much attention to.

I have never in my life chopped, diced or gotten to close to an onion. When I was young I became a pro at sliding, working and scraping onions off of any food item ever purchased. I hated the smell, the flavor and the way the stench clung to your skin like a bad house guest rash.

About a year into dating my husband his genetic predisposition for an onion intolerance kicked in and he joined me on the "We Onion Haters Club" side of the world.

Flash forward a few years with the liberal use of the squiggly lines wipe and we both realize that I actually like the flavor of seriously dead and buried caramelized onions and they don't seem to bother his stomach much.

Yesterday, against all common sense, I decided to try hitting C once just to see what happened and attempted something with the dreaded Onion.
Uncertain of what in the hell these strange papery hard objects were I picked up a few at the grocery store, sniffed them, maybe lobbed one up in the air so it'd turn into a space ship. Sadly this did nothing to answer my rather pertinent question "How exactly does one cut into an onion?"

A few things I learned from my experience.

1. Peel off the paper first, it helps to gouge out the ends but is a bit harder to smash it like garlic.

2. I don't cry much from the onion enzymes, no my eyes BURN with the fury of 1,000 Star Wars fans that just watched the new editions to the Blu-Ray.

3. They may look innocuous rolling around almost comically but turn your back for even a minute and those onions will take you out man.

Okay so the onions are all sliced up, my bleeding's been contained, now what?

I tried the recipe I found here but I would change a few things next time.


  • 6 large red or yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of beef stock, chicken stock, or a combination of the two (traditionally the soup is made with beef stock)
  • 1/2 cup of dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon of dry thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 slices of toasted French bread
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated Swiss Gruyere with a little grated Parmesan cheese
I sauteed the onions in the olive oil for 40 minutes. About 10 minutes in when you're gagging for air from the horrific smell and flaming eyeballs add the sugar to speed along the caramelization. Or next time you could just get sweet onions, that would probably be smarter really.

They went in looking like this.
And about half way through looked like this and were actually starting to smell dare I say it, palatable.
Once the onion are a healthy shade of brown and translucent add in the garlic, the stock, the wine, the bay leaf and the thyme and let that all simmer together in ooey gooeyness for a half hour.

This is where I did and would do things differently. By the time the soup boiled down it was about 75% onion to 25% broth so I say double the broth unless you like to pretty much eat onions that are slightly damp. I also had no bay leaf even though I thought I did but they have a sneaky way of vanishing into the inner dimension contained within my cupboards so I only added the thyme.

Not that any of that mattered as the wine was really over powering, some of it could have been because the only white wine I had left was a white cranberry that certainly had a strong potency or the whole face that most of the beef broth went bye bye.
Again I didn't have French bread or fancy cheeses or any of that so I toasted a slice of wheat bread, cut it in half, added some mozzarella and parmesan to the top and melted/toasted it under the broiler for 10 minutes.

Here it is, my first attempt at doing anything with onions:
My husband said it was a lot fancier than he was expecting and gobbled all of his down and some of mine.

I'm still not much on speaking terms with onions and am going mad keeping a fine layer of glade in the air to keep the dreaded cooking onion smells at bay but it was certainly very fallish and pretty damn snooty for such a cheap meal.

I may even try it again unless one of them comes for my other finger.


Anonymous said...

i have found the secret to a good french onion soup is to cook the holy fuck out of the onions. Like they should be really brown like a walnut wood color before adding anything other than the garlic and the oil 9and some would argue you dont cook garlic that long it hurts it but i digress) the longer you cook them, the sweeter they get, and the more they dissolve into the broth when you finally add it.

I worked for panera bread back before they got all big and corporate (they started right down the street from where i grew up) and that is how they make their soup...which is the bar i unconsciously set for all things french soup-y

Janellabelle said...

thank you for this erlyn! I do think the right thing to do is cook the holy hell out of them. Sadly, my bay leaves also went MIA for this mission...

Janellabelle said...

I cooked them not enough. I think i will try to go holy hell brown next time... all the recipes are the same, it's damn simple, but why o why did it not turn out... should I simmer for like 4 hours?