In Mastering the Art of French Cooking Julia Child proves at least two very important things. 1) Paula Deen did not pioneer the use of butter in food and, more importantly 2) simple ingredients, properly cooked can make the most magnificent dishes. In regards to number one, I have nothing more to say. However, the rest of this post will be proof of number two.
It may have been a year or more ago when Andrea and I first decided to tackle "real" french onion soup a la Julia Child. What we discovered was shocking to say the least. Given only a handful of ingredients and about two hours of preparation we created one of the most enjoyable soups either of us had ever tasted. "This," Andrea proclaimed after our most recent batch, "has become one of my favorite comfort foods."
I'll be the first to admit that usually the recipes in MTAFC are somewhat complicated. One only has to look as far as the highly acclaimed boeuf bourguignon to understand the truth of that. However, with this dish it is almost laughably simple. So what is the secret to mouth watering french onion soup? Time. That, my dear friends is the secret ingredient.
Lets turn to some of the nitty gritty of the cooking. First, you must embark on the unenviable task of peeling and slicing 4 cups of yellow onions (As a side note, the onions I sliced last night had been in our garage which was only slightly warmer than the fridge and this seems to have cut down on the tears). I like to think that the amounts detailed in the recipe, like the pirate code, are more like guidelines than hard and fast rules. We like onions, ergo there was slightly more than 4 cups in our soup.
Next you put the onions into your soup pot (we used our enameled cast iron pot) with 3 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of oil. Cook, covered for 15 minutes. Then you simply add a few tablespoons of salt and a dash of sugar and let those bad boys cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Note: the hard part is done. This is where the real magic happens. Those onions cook down to a deep caramel colored mass of savory goodness (Note: When the instruction say to "stir frequently" they mean it. My lack of stirring almost had disastrous consequences last night). With the addition of a little bit of flour that you allow to brown you are almost home free. After this period of cooking you simply add 2 quarts of boiling beef stock, 1/4 cup of white wine and let it simmer away until your heart is content.
We all know that french onion soup would be incomplete without the appropriate bread in the bowl with it. Again Julia comes through with an easy solution. Make some thick slices of your favorite french bread, bake until they become slightly crispy, then rub them down with a garlic clove, sprinkle on some Parmesan cheese and broil for another couple of minutes. Once you put that bread in the bowl and spoon on some of the soup the result is pure, continental bliss. The only real downside to making this soup is that french onion soup anywhere else will definitely be a letdown.
Rating: That's good chow!