While summer weather is my favorite of the year, there are so many things I love about Fall. I love comfy sweaters, cool boots and the delicious Fall flavors. The cooler weather also signals the beginning of soup season!
One soup that I have never tried making before, but which daddy orders whenever he has the opportunity, is French onion soup. So this week, we decided to give it a try at home. I chose a recipe and set to work.
The longest part of the process is the onions. Onions are the star of this soup, but it takes a lot of work, time and patience to turn them into soup.
I started with a five pound bag of yellow onions...
...and proceeded to peel and chop for... well... a while. Little miss helped me with the peeling for a while, but after the first pound or so, decided she'd rather read on the couch.
But with a bit of persistence, I soon had a bag full of onion skins...
...and a soup pot over half full with onion slices.
Now, I know a lot of recipes start with "caramelized onions." Notice the quotation marks. Because the recipe usually says "add your onions to the pan and sautee for 5-7 minutes, until caramelized." Yeah. True caramelization takes time. Not a quick, high heat burn, but a ssslllloooowwww process of cooking them down, extracting the moisture and cooking all the delicious natural sugars that live inside those onions.
As they start the process, you can see how much they cook down.
And after about an hour (yes, an hour!), if you are lucky, you have a pot of deliciously golden deliciousness.
(two things to note with the above picture - 1) the lighting was TERRIBLE and the golden color was very washed out, but trust me - they were golden brown and delicious looking; 2) how in the world is that four pounds worth of onions?? CRAZY how small it cooks down!)
Once the onions are all caramelized, it's time to turn them into soup, which is pretty much the easiest thing in the world. Just add stock. And season to taste.
The primary spice called for in the recipe that I used is thyme. I also added some salt to balance out the sweetness of the caramelized onions.
Now, if you have ever ordered French onion soup out, you know that the best part is the delicious cheese melted on top of each serving.
But I don't have oven safe crocks in which to serve the soup in order to achieve that cool look (and taste).
Not to be deterred, I did the next best thing.
See, French onion soup is also usually served with a big crouton or chunk of French bread in the soup. So I made the bread do double-duty. Before putting the bread into the soup bowl, I topped it with cheese (gruyere is traditional, I used swiss) and popped it under the broiler.
I then put the melty, bubbly bread pieces into the bowls and served the soup right around them.
Not quite the same, but it definitely gave the feeling of cheese-topped bread-filled French onion soup. This French onion soup is sweeter than what we've had before, but was still rich and delicious and well worth the time it took to make it.
French Onion Soup
(adapted from BS' In The Kitchen)
4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
4 pounds yellow onions
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
6 cups beef stock
4 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1½ teaspoons dried thyme
Salt & Pepper to taste
Swiss cheese (gruyere is more traditional, but I didn't have any)
Start by preparing all of your onions. All of the onions need to be peeled and evenly sliced.
Once your onions are sliced, put the butter in your largest pot, set the heat to medium low, and, once the butter has melted, add all of those onions right in the pot. Sprinkle the tops with the sugar and then... be patient.
Let the onions caramelize, stirring only as often as needed to keep them from burning or sticking to the pan. You don’t want to stir too often, as this will prevent them from browning and caramelizing.
Once they become a beautiful, even, deep golden brown, increase the heat to medium, and after a minute or two, mix in the flour and then start pouring in your stock.
Slowly pour the stock in, stirring as your pour. Add thyme and continue to stir. Allow soup to simmer for 30 - 45 minutes, tasting as you go. Salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, slice the French bread into thick slices and top with slices of swiss cheese. Broil the cheese-topped bread for just a minute or two until the cheese is toasted and bubbly.
Place one or two cheese-toasts into your bowl and then ladle the soup onto/around them.