Sunday, January 31, 2010
French onion soup on Sunday.
The weeks are long in January. After months of long holidays and three day weekends that seem to fly by, January brings everything to a dull halt. The weeks drag on, to the point where I am thinking every day feels like it should be Thursday, only to be slammed with the heavy reality of Tuesday. And then I look at my calendar and wonder when the next break will be, and thank goodness for a trip to San Francisco next week (to meet this lovely lady!), otherwise I am looking at five-day work weeks piling up until Memorial Day. Can you believe that? From January until May, not one holiday worth a break. It's exhausting.
But then there are the weekends, when it's especially nice to slow down. Sundays, in particular, are best when they involve onions caramelizing on the stove for an hour, then simmered into a rich soup and topped with cheesy toasted bread.
I've had this French onion soup bookmarked for a long time, and it wasn't until Murdo and I went to the French restaurant Mon Ami Gabi on Friday night that I decided it was finally time to quit stalling and just make the soup already. For dinner that night, Murdo had the beef bourguignon, and I had the seared scallops with whipped cauliflower and spinach, which sounds light and healthy but was actually bathed in butter. A common French thing to do, I understand, but after eating four or five delicious, melt-in-your-mouth scallops, I clutched my stomach and decided that French food is not meant to be served in American portions. The butter hit me like a brick, which explains passing out on the couch shortly after arriving home that night.
This soup, however, was just what Sunday ordered. The onions transforming into brown strands of silk on the stove and filling my apartment with an intoxicating aroma as I arranged hydrangeas on the table, well, it was perfect. I'll admit I was a bit nervous, ladling the soup into large white bowls (the only ovenproof ones I have), that it would be too much -- that I'd pass out in a food coma afterward and miss my Sunday altogether. But really, it was just enough to recharge my batteries for the week ahead of me.
February, I am ready for you.
French Onion Soup (adapted from The Kitchen Sink Recipes)
This soup calls for 1 cup of red wine, but it turned out a little too boozy for our tastes, so next time I'll reduce to 1/2 cup and add less water.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 pounds yellow onions, sliced into thin half-circles
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup red wine
4 cups beef stock
2 cups water
1 French baguette, sliced on a diagonal
6 ounces grated Gruyere
Melt butter in a Dutch oven or heavy pot on medium heat. Add onions, salt, thyme, bay leaves, and sugar, and stir to coat the onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to keep the onions from sticking. The onions are caramelized when they are golden brown, soft, and melting, about 45 minutes.
Once the onions are caramelized, sprinkle flour over the onions and stir to coat. Slowly add the red wine, making sure to scrape the brown caramelization from the bottom of the pan. Add the beef stock and water, and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, lightly toast the baguette slices under a broiler for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the tops are light brown. Ladle the soup into oven-safe bowls and top with the toasted baguette slices, toast-side down. Sprinkle generously with cheese. Place bowls on a baking sheet and slide under the broiler for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Serve immediately. Makes 6 bowls.