Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Less than Beautiful Cooking

I'm just through enjoying a delicious yet not very pretty bowl of homemade French Onion Soup

It's one of my favorite things, and today is the kind of day that just screams for a nice hot, cheesy, bready bowl full. It's simple yet hearty and deeply satisfying and if I had a lick of sense, I'd make it more often and keep a stash in my fridge or freezer, because I just can't imagine a time when I wouldn't love sitting down some.
I used what I thought was a recipe from Saveur magazine, but now that I've compared my copy to the version I found here, it's not quite the same. My recipe was without the bouquet garni and the garlic, and I caramelized my onions on the stovetop. But whatever recipe you choose, the absolute MOST IMPORTANT thing is to caramelize the bejeezes out of the onions. So put on your patience cap and strap it down tight, because you want the deep dark color of an old penny on those babies and getting there requires going low and slow and that's going to take a while. But anything lighter than that deep dark color and you'll be missing out on flavor, and there's nothing more tragic than a the promise of what may have been when it comes to onion soup.

The other major keys, IMO, are to use a great stock and good white wine and cognac. Or just a good white wine if that's all you've got on hand because you've used up all your cognac making beef stroganoff. Who, me?
Now, I'll confess that I didn't make my stock from scratch, but part of the point of this particular onion soup adventure was to try a new to me kind of stock concentrate that I picked up at the grocery store the other day. Honestly, I didn't have very high hopes since ready made stocks, and ready made beef stocks in particular are horrible more often that not. But this one, called Savory Choice, ended up to be pretty darn good...a rather happy accident, really. It came in a little box full of tubes of liquid concentrate that each made a cup of stock but I've also seen it in non-concentrate, broth form at places like Costco. I have no idea if it would be the same or not but based on this experience I'd say it's worth a try. (Under no circumstances should you attempt onion soup with Swanson broth. Trust me, the results will be inedible.) Anyway, use a stock concentrate or demiglace you can trust or make your own, because again, with such simple ingredients, there is no love for things that aren't independently delicious.
So my other confession is that I could have caramelized the onions a bit longer. I guess I didn't have my patience cap on tight enough, but I know you'll do better!

Now go make onion soup! It might even make you thankful for winter.

Looks totally yummy, SG.
Making the onion soup was one of my duties when I was a restaurant prep cook.
Day One: peel and slice 100 lbs of onions. Thankfully I used this chopper machine for the slicing.
Day Two: To caramelize the onions I used a cooker that was about 4'x3'x1.5' and I got to use a spatula that was pretty much the size of a kayak paddle. I got a lot of thinking done as I just paddled those onions to golden perfection.
Weirdly, I've never made it at home.
That actually looks really good! Yum!
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