NEVER QUESTION JULIA!!!
The Barefoot Contessa's recipe is torn up and in the trash. I shall not stray again.
This weekend I followed Julia's recipe for French Onion Soup, and it was so good... dare I say it? I didn't even need to put the crouton of melted cheese on it!!!
And I have stated before my love of melted cheese. So you know I'm serious.
This is how it all went down.
Once the onions have softened, sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp sugar (to assist in caramelizing) and cook for another 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently, until you have uniformly browned onions.
At the same time the onions are caramelizing, heat up your 4 quarts of stock.
I used 2 quarts veal stock from glacé, and 2 quarts beef stock from bullion cubes.Now, I said "Never Question Julia" and I meant it. But adjusting is not the same as questioning. Julia did not call for any herbs or spices beyond salt and pepper, and I just find that... dubious. Maybe that is The Traditional French Way, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. So when I was heating the stock before adding it to the (beautifully) caramelized onions, I threw in a bay leaf and a couple of sprigs of thyme, to be removed later. And I'm glad I did it, because as previously mentioned, the soup is DELICIOUS!
And I rationalized that when Julia is making her stock for any dish, she probably puts one of those little bouquets of herbs in it anyway, so really I was just trying to improve my crappy beef-broth-from-a-bullion-cube so that it would be acceptable to her. See? Conflict averted.
After 35 minutes, my onions looked like this.
Too far away? OK.
Ok enough patting myself on the back for not screwing up the onions.
Julia directs to remove the soup from the heat, and then add in the boiling stock, followed by half a cup of white wine. When I got to this point, I was down to maybe 1/4 cup of white wine. No, not because I had been sampling while cooking, but rather because while I was caramelizing the onions, the bottom of my pan was getting an alarming amount of little brown bits stuck to it. Now, these are the flavorful bits that you want to keep, but when they appear and you still have 15 minutes of cooking time before your onions are where they aught to be, there is worry over burning those tasty little bits.
So, while I was caramelizing the onions, any time I felt too many brown bits were accumulating in the bottom of the pan, I would add a tablespoon or two of the white wine, scrape the bits up, and continue to stir and cook my onions. It worked beautifully, and probably added even more flavor to the onions.
Following scientifically tested recipes (a.k.a. anything Julia Child published) and instructions is good, but understanding enough about cooking to adjust to your own cooking conditions can save a meal.
Not to mention hours scrubbing a burnt pot.
Moving on, the soup is supposed to simmer another half hour, "partially covered" on your stovetop, and then get 3 tablespoons of dry sherry added in. At the end of this I fished out my sprigs of thyme and bay leaf, and checked the soup in case I needed to adjust any seasonings.
I did not.
It was marvelous.
And I dug right in.
Thanks again, Julia!