Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Onion Soup, Round 2

I have said it before, and now I will say it again:

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.
Sauté in 3 tablespoons of butter, and one of olive oil, about 3 medium sized yellow onions, sliced. Cook with the lid on for 15 minutes. (Try not to cut off your thumb while slicing the onions. I have never been so happy for my flimsy excuse for fingernails as when I realized that without them, I would have just removed a large section of flesh. Instead, I only had to file down a split nail. Phew!)

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.

How's that?
I know.
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.

Eventually I will get around to serving this with the covering of browned and bubbling cheese. For now, I am just enjoying my French Onion Soup.
Thanks again, Julia!


Zia Elle said...

I love onion soup! I eat it for the first time in paris, last November they call it "soupe d'onion"
nice to see your blog, ciao from Rome, italy!

RocknRollGourmet said...

Thanks for stopping by, Zia! I loved visiting Rome on my honeymoon. Jealous you get to live there all the time!

Ms. WhitePlates said...

The recipe I've used and played around with for quite a while has always called for caramelizing the onions on a rather low setting to prevent the little bits of deliciousness from showing up too soon. I find the onions release a little more juice, too.

I totally love Julia!

from my motorhome to yours said...

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Jordan said...

Two things
1. Made the pork- delicious! I served it up with homemade applesauce, sauteed spinach and cornbread- Carl and I were in heaven!

2. This is the BEST onion soup recipe ever! I make it every winter, but I'm feeling like I may need to make an early spring batch as well

Oh, and 3. I like the new background. I like to imagine you have just poured and are offering me a big ole glass of Chianti. gulp, gulp.

RocknRollGourmet said...

Jordan - So glad the pork recipe worked out for you! I haven't had cornbread in ages. It's like dessert that you get to eat during the meal. Mmmm...

It's chilly in NYC today, so still a good time of year for soup. I have eaten FAR too much of it already.

Oh yes. A big ol' glass of wine. Maybe a Nero d'Avola or Nebbiolo? It's after 5PM in Italy now, right?

Melissa's Espresso Shot said...

That French Onion soup sounds delicious.
I have wondered though, how do you store your leftovers? I usually just cook for myself and my husband and most recipes are for a family. I hate eating leftovers because they never taste as good the next time around. Any tips for dealing with this?
I also love your new background. :)

RocknRollGourmet said...

Melissa - the soup keeps for about a week in tupperware, and I'm home for lunches, so things get eaten faster in our house that way.

Most of my leftovers come back fairly well. The only things I find less wonderful are pasta-based, since the pasta becomes over-cooked after storage.

Remember, if a recipe says it feeds 4, you can just cut the ingredient proportions in half. You don't HAVE to make extra. I just like extra for my lunches.

Also, that is why I tend to cook things like chicken breasts, smaller port tenderloins, and chops, because I can control portions and leftovers that way.

If you'd like to email me specific leftovers you have trouble with, I can try to address whatever issues you are having. It could be how you store it, or it could be how you try to reheat it.
Trying to answer generally is hard.
Email: rocknrollgourmet@gmail.com

Joe Ambrosino said...

Julia Rocks!! And, to put it politely, I can not stand Ina Garten.