Monday, January 30, 2012

(Not So) French Onion Soup


Last January, Mr. Max and I experimented with our first French Onion Soup recipe. This was my first experience to caramelize onions for a prolonged period, not just quickly for say, fajitas. I felt as though I let my impatient nature get the best of me, not allowing the onions to reach prime sweet form by caramelizing long enough. Over the past few months, French Onion Soup has become a regular pre-meal delight when we've dined out at places like Nosh, Morton's and the Warwick Hotel's Landmark restaurant.

Tonight, we decided to stir up some taste, making a not-so-French-onion-soup. Looking at my last recipe, I knew a few things I wanted to change. I added brown sugar, only used 2 vidalia onions and nixed the red onion. I also used less white wine allowing it to evaporate longer creating more of a glaze, along with less beef stock, and replaced the Swiss with Gruyere cheese. Then came two secret ingredients: Dijon mustard and soy sauce. Say what?

As I taste-tested the broth, the sweetness was there, but I felt something was missing. The beef broth slightly dilutes the flavor once stirred in, adding more of a watery taste. I needed that tang that makes it impossible to resist going back for another bite. I was already using the Dijon mustard for a chicken recipe so I tried that first, then added sea salt and garlic powder. That made an impact but it wasn't there yet. Staring at my fridge, I needed a punch of tang. I was out of balsamic so I grabbed the soy adding just enough to make a statement. Took a sip and it was just right! When it came time to spoon and sip, I waited for Mr. Max's reaction which was a big caveman nod and an MMMM. Mission accomplished.

Grocery List:
For 2 hearty servings
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 sweet yellow onions, sliced into thin 1/8" rings
  • 1/4 cup white wine (I used chardonnay)
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 4 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 3 tsp. soy sauce (I used Tamari)
  • Garlic Powder to taste (start with 1/2 tsp. and sprinkle away from there)
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • 4 slices from Baguette
  • Gruyere cheese, sliced thin
First thing is first: allot yourself time for the pursuit of the perfect onions. I would recommend 90 minutes for the caramelization process, and then the rest flows quickly after that. To begin, add your butter and onions to a dutch oven over low-medium heat (dial set at 3 or 4).

Cover for about 10 minutes until butter is melted and the onions begin to soften. Uncover and add 2 tsp. of the brown sugar, stir in and cover. Set the timer for 45 minutes and then go do something else. Get on Pinterest, clean your house, catch up on the DVR, knit a scarf... just walk away. Every now and then, when you need a water refill or something, you may want to peek in and give it a quick stir to loosen up onions from sticking to the bottom, or any browned bits to keep from burning.

When the timer goes off, uncover, add the remaining 2 tsp. of brown sugar and now the wine, stir and lower the heat to a 2 or 3 on the dial. The onions will already look golden, there will be browned areas in the pan, stir it around and set that timer for another 35 minutes. Now we allow the wine to evaporate and kinda glaze the onions a bit, mixing with the butter and brown sugar.

When the timer goes off, pull out a string and taste - see how good that is! Now, we add the beef broth, thyme, Dijon and soy sauce, then season with garlic powder and salt to taste. Bring this to a boil, uncovered, a cook for about 5 minutes.

While that cooks, slice up your Gruyere and baguette. Set the oven to broil and toast the baguette slices for about 2 minutes.

Ladle your soup into oven-safe, high heat tolerant bowls.

Top with baguettes (I used 2 in each bowl to span the width of the soup bowls), and top with cheese. I thought I had a better cheese slicer, but alas, it did not give me a beautiful large slice of cheese as I had wanted. Therefore, we had to make-do with several smaller slices to cover the top.

Place in the oven a top a cooking sheet and broil for another 2 minutes until the cheese is a melty, bubbling, browned layer.

Remove from oven, let cool - bowls will be HOT. Set on a hot pad to be nice to your table surface, top with any additional thyme for garnish and enjoy!

Tastefully yours,

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