Tuesday, December 12, 2006

onion soup

onion soup

We could speak about the meaning of life vis-a-vis non-consequential/deontological theories, apodictic transformation schemata, the incoherence of exemplification, metaphysical realism, Cartesian interactive dualism, revised non-reactive dualism, postmodernist grammatology and dicey dichotomies. But we would still be left with Nietzsche’s preposterous mustache, which instills great anguish and skepticism in the brain, which leads (as it did in his case) to utter madness. I suggest we go to Paris instead. — The Principles of Uncertainty

It’s really not news to anyone, but I have an unhealthy obsession with Paris. I would move there in a second. I want to live in a place where flavor, history and culture of food is more important than the policing of it; where the old buildings aren’t torn down to make room for the new and the granite counter-topped and where I would never eat hundreds and hundreds of dollars in medical fees and be told I should be glad to have insurance at all. Making pastries, bread, cheese the very old way and other exhausting endeavors are considered honorable professions and I know, I know I only see Paris through rose-colored glasses but this is the unending gift of getting engaged there, two years ago today.

Also, ahem, this lovely husband.


I’m sure we’re all going through this right now, but I find myself worn out these weeks with an endless to-do list but different engagements every day making it nearly impossible to check things off. I love this time of year, but I could use a little more of that mysterious time stuff. Why is the sun setting at 3:45? What happened to that pedicure I was going to get four weeks ago? Why have I been trudging through the same book since this summer? Is this a cold coming on? Cook dinner? You must be kidding.

mixed greens, classic vinaigrette

Thus, I also propose we go to Paris instead. And, I can’t think of an easier way to get there than Julia Child’s Onion Soup. If you love onion soup and have never made it at home before, I beg, implore you to do it, just once. You will be sold. Just wait until you taste it; it will put your favorite French restaurant to shame. And while there is some tedium in the beginning with those 40 minute caramelized onions (swoon), that’s it. After that, it takes care of itself.

And you. And your holiday-frazzled head. And your sneezing, sniffling husband under that pile of tissues, who used his sick time home this weekend to clean the apartment while you attended party after party.

Did I marry well or what?

onion soup

Soupe a l’Oignon [Onion Soup]
Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Update! In 2011, I updated this recipe with steamlined and more user-friendly directions and ingredient weights over here.

1 1/2 pounds or about 5 cups of thinly sliced yellow onions (Deb note: I find even 6-7 cups is never too much)
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
A heavy-bottomed 4-quart covered saucepan
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar (helps the onions to brown)
3 tablespoons flour
2 quarts boiling brown stock, canned beef bouillon, or 1 quart of boiling water and 1 quart of stock or bouillon
1/2 cup dry white wine or dry white vermouth
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cognac
Rounds of hard-toasted French bread (see following recipe)
1 to 2 cups grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese (Deb note: I always use cave-aged gruyere)

Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in the covered saucepan for 15 minutes.

Uncover, raise heat to moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 to 40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown.

Sprinkle the flour and stir for three minutes.

Off heat, blend in the boiling liquid. Add the wine and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 minutes of more, skimming occasionally. Correct seasoning.

(*) Set aside uncovered until ready to serve. Then reheat to the simmer.

Just before serving, stir in the cognac. Pour into a soup tureen or soup cups over the round of bread and pass the cheese separately. [Or, use following instructions for a baked cheese top.]

Soupe a’ L’Oignon Gratinee [Onion Soup Gratineed with Cheese]
Mastering the Art of French Cooking

The preceeding onion soup
A fireproof tureen or casserole or individual onion soup pots
2 ounces Swiss cheese cut into very thin slivers
1 tablespoon grated raw onion
12 to 16 rounds of hard toasted French bread
1/2 cups grated Swiss, or Swiss and Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Bring the soup to the boil and pour into the tureen or soup pots. Stir in the slivered cheese and grated onion. Float the rounds of toast on top of the soup, and spread the grated cheese over it. Sprinkle with the oil or butter. Bake for 20 minutes in the oven, then set for a minute or two under a preheated broiler to brown the top lightly. Serve immediately.

Classic French Vinaigrette

1 1/2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 very small clove minced fresh garlic or 1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 egg yolk, at room temperature (Just omit it if it freaks you out)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup good olive oil

Salad greens or mesclun mix for 2 to 4 people

Whisk everything together. The Dijon and egg yolk act as emulsifiers so you don’t need to do that slow drizzle thing to convince them to merge.

Note: If you’re worried about raw egg, just omit it.


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