Thursday, January 14, 2010

Don’t Cry Over Sliced Onions: French Onion Soup

When the soundtrack, Beauty and the Beast, from my princess-childhood came onto my shuffle playlist this week, it put me in the mood for something French, something warm, and something “more than this provincial life” can sell.
Sweet onions are what made it into the shopping basket. Ever realized the difference between types of onions at the store? Other than the fact that some are red and others are yellow? Since onions are as ubiquitous in a kitchen or dish as salt and pepper, I figure you deserve a quick rundown:
When buying onions, choose ones that are firm, often with cracked skin. Avoid any that have dark, soft spots or are overly fragrant. Once purchased, you should store onions in a cool, dry, dark place. Onions can be a variety of colors: white, red/purple, and yellow. Typically, people buy storage onions such as, red onions, boiling onions, Spanish onions and shallots. These onions are available year-round at most grocers because they stay well on the shelves and in your pantry. They have thick skins and a pungent smell and taste, which are what people most commonly attribute to storage onions. In the spring and summer there are added varieties of sweet onions such as Vidalia, Walla Walla, or Sweet Imperials. These seasonal onions have a thinner, lighter skin and a much higher water content, thus their sweetness. This also attributes to why they do not cause as much trouble with the eyes when trying to cut them.
The taste of a sweet onion is a far cry from the ones that make you tear up while slicing. They are milder than storage onions, and rather take on and accentuate the flavors already culminating in your dish. They are perfect for caramelizing in butter with a pinch of salt and sugar, great for grilling on kabobs and they are the key ingredient in French Onion Soup. In this recipe, the sweetness of the onions compliments the salty beef stock flavor in the soup, and the red wine and sage are what set this Homemade French Onion Soup apart from taking the canned Campbell’s route.
This soup recipe is adapted from Julia Child’s “The French Chef Cookbook”, and “it’s all in perfect taste, that you can bet!”
Homemade French Onion Soup
2 T butter
1 T olive oil
2-3 medium sweet onions, thinly sliced
Pinch of salt and a dash of sugar
2 spoonfuls of flour
2 C hot beef stock
¼ C water
½ C red wine
1 bay leaf
2 pinches of dried sage
Salt and pepper to taste
A few slices of French bread
½ C Swiss cheese
1. Melt butter and oil together in large sauce pan over medium heat.
2. Add onions, stir and cook until tender and translucent, 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Turn up heat to medium high heat. Add salt and sugar, while continuing to caramelize the onions until they are dark golden brown, 10-15 min.
4. Gradually add the flour, coating the onions. Cook until the flour has somewhat browned, about 3-5 min.
5. Pour in about a cup of the hot broth, stir together with the onions until thickened.
6. Add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer over low heat for 25-35 min. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Brush bread with dab of olive oil, place on cookie sheet. Bake in 350 degree oven for 10-15 min, until golden brown.
8. In individual oven-safe bowls, spoon soup into bowl. Put toasted bread on top, followed by cheese. Spread equally over each, bake in oven for 10-15 min, or until cheese has bubbled and browned.
Serves about 2 people. NOMS: 9.0

Cook’s Note: Don’t Cry over Cutting Onions
· Put onions in the refrigerator/chill them before cutting
· Wash the onion, keep wet while slicing or slice while water is running
· Avoid cutting off the shoot early on. This releases the enzyme that reacts with the water in your eyes.
· Chew gum while cutting onions
· Many people recommend breathing through your mouth
· Squeeze lemon juice bottle towards nose and let vapors enter nose and eyes

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