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The French Connection

October 16, 2011

The weather is finally cooling here in the Central Valley, too – finally, it’s time for soups!  Summer may be great for cold, light soups, cool beverages and fresh fruit and vegetable dishes, but once fall hits the doors, nothing warms you up like a big cup of a rich soup.  For me, French onion soup is a perennial favorite, but it’s this time of the year when I really start to get the hankering for it – and it’s just about 15 minutes to make!

For 2 servings, you’ll need about half of a large onion – use white or yellow; red will make the whole soup a rather strange purple-ish color.  You can also use about half of a leek (use both the white and the green parts), or a small bunch of green onions.  Slice the onions to thin half-rings – rings, if using leeks or green onions.

Slice the onion

Slicing the onion

In the meantime, start heating up the oven to about 400 degrees for the cheese toast to dip.  In a small pot, melt at least a tablespoon of butter, or even a little more.  The soup also tastes great with olive oil, if you want to make it healthier, but it’s butter that gives that rich flavor.  When all the butter is melted, add the onions, separating each little ring as you toss them in.  Stir it well, and salt it – the salt helps release the water from the onions, hence making them soften, brown and caramelize faster.  Stir them every so often, and meanwhile, prepare the toast.  Take two slices of good bread (I prefer buttermilk white, but any type works), butter them lightly, and cover them in shredded cheese.  Swiss or cheddar is best, but any type will work.  Put them on a foil-lined cookie sheet, and in the oven they go.

Cheese toast

Pat the cheese down a bit on the toasts-to-be

By now, the onions should be just about ready – I personally like them just slightly caramelized and light brown; the original French version calls for the onions to be well browned, some people just like them barely softened.  Spice them with a little garlic salt, white pepper and nutmeg to taste.

Toasty onions

Toasty onions

Add a heaping spoonful of flour, and start mixing it in vigorously.  The flour needs to slightly brown, however, it cannot burn; so make sure you have the next ingredient, about 2 cups of water or chicken stock on hand.  As son as the flour is ready, add the liquid part, stirring as you pour it in.  You can also add a dash of white wine – I don’t usually crack a new bottle for this, unless it’s a special enough occasion to have wine on the side, too.  Make sure there are no lumps, then slowly heat the soup to a boil, stirring occasionally.

Let’s not forget about the toasts either – once the cheese is nice and melty on the top, turn the oven over to broil, and keep a close eye on the toasts.  Both the bread and the cheese are outrageously quick to burn – be sure to watch for it!

As the soup comes to a boil, it should thicken to a nice, creamy consistency.  You can now pour the whole thing into a blender and cream everything together (or just use an immersion blender), but I prefer to have the onion chunks in my soup.  The last thing to add is some cheese – either whatever you used on the toast, or some parmesan.  Stir it in until it melts and blends into the soup.


Say cheese!

Cut the toasts into triangular halves, and you’re ready to serve.  For a fancier dinner party, you can also get small sourdough cannonballs and hollow them out (save the insides for stuffing/dressing or breadcrumbs) for bread bowls.  Top each bowl of soup with a little cheese or some parsley, and put the toast triangles on the side.


French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup


Enjoy your meal!

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