French Onion Soup
Right now it is zero degrees in Chicago. That is not the worst of it. Tomorrow it is supposed to be -16. That is the worst of it. That is just so cold. Even for Chicago.
Although myself and all of Chicago’s residents are dead-smack in the middle of a big city, you’d think that everyone that lives here lives on the old frontier, on the barren, unsettled prairie, ten miles from the nearest store. That is what it seems like based on how they are all preparing for this chill. Grocery stores were full and the canned food aisles all a ghost town. Bread laid on the ground, seemingly knocked around during a hasty scurry to just “Grab the bread!” Before someone else. Even milk was scarce—-unless you drank skim. Then you’d be just fine.
Another interesting treasure one could not find easily was hot chocolate mix. It was seemingly non-existent. Not Swiss Miss, Not Nestle, not even Starbucks. Ah, yes, the hearty midwesterners. We get ready to settle in with our canned goods and hot chocolate, order ourselves a pizza off of Grub Hub and lay under layers of blankets, soaking up the one or two actual moments of rest we get with the Ted Buddy tapes on Netflix playing in the background. Maybe a cat or dog in your lap to snuggle with.
No mind that most people still have to work on their laptops tomorrow. But some don’t. Me. I will probably try to kind of work…from my bed…under blankets. On my own laptop. But I will start early and end early—leaving the rest of the day to work my way through the two books that both became available at once from the library. “Becoming” by Michelle Obama and “One of Us is Lying”by Karen McManus.
Truth be told, I also see myself not leaving bed and just reading “The Long WInter” by Laura Ingalls Wilder too. I mean. -16. That is cold. It might also be too cold to get out of bed to get the laptop.
In any event, I, too have visited the grocery. I forgot bread. Other than that though, I am in a good place. I have a recipe I am ready to bake, the Triple Lemon Velvet Bundt Cake by Rose Levy Braeburn, and I have taken stock of what I have to cook with for the next two days. While I am pretty stocked, I do plan on conserving because one day being in the negatives, still means winter is here. Sure, it will get warmer, but it doesn’t mean I want to run off to the grocery anytime soon. Or leave the house. Not if I don’t have to.
When I was taking inventory of my kitchen, I did notice that I had an abundance of onions and a few deli’s of beef broth in my freezer that should probably get dealt with. I also randomly had Gruyere laying around, which has never happened in my whole entire life, and in lieu of Swiss, what is stated in the recipe, I might use the mozzarella I have on hand. It all depends on what I have to work with.
Yes, I have no bread, but I do have a frozen baguette in the freezer from December.
This recipe originally appears in my cookbook, “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Taste of France”. It was included in that cookbook because of it being such a classic French dish at restaurants that Fitzgerald and his counterparts frequented at. Places like La Rotonde, Harry’s and Cafe de Flore. Perfect for gray days, I find this recipe to be a little fussy, warming and it is a refined comfort food at its finest.
Perfect for the coldest day of the year, be that day be in Paris…or Chicago.
French Onion Soup
6 Tbsp of unsalted butter
3 lbs (about six) sweet onions
1 tsp of Fleur de Sel or coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp of brown sugar
10 springs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups of dry white wine
6 cups/4 liters of beef broth
1 garlic clove, cut in half lengh wise
2 tsp of sherry (optional)
1/2 cup of Gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 cup of Swiss cheese, grated
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the oil and onions and cook until the onions have softened. Stirring occasionally, about fifteen minutes. Add the salt, pepper, and brown sugar; continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are a deep golden brown and caramelized, reducing the heat slightly if they start to burn more quickly. this should take about 35-45 minutes.
Add the wine to deglaze the pan and raise the heat to high. Cook until the liquid has almost all evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Tie the thyme and bay leaf in a bundle with twine or enclose in a cheesecloth/muslin bundle. Add the onions, pour in the beef broth and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the broth is thickened and flavorful, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the heat, discard the herbs, and whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Preheat the broiler/grill.
Cut at least eight baguette slices about a 1/2 inch to an inch for the top of each bowl of soup. Feel free to cut and toast additional slices as well to accompany the soup.
Place each baguette slice on a baking sheet or cookie sheet and toast until crisp and dry, but not browned. About 1 minute. Rub one side of each of the pieces of toast with a garlic clove and set aside.
Place the ramekins on a rimmed baking sheet covered with foil. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sherry to the bottom of each, then ladle the soup on top. Top each serving of soup with two garlic bread toasts. Divide the cheese among the servings, covering the bread and some of the soup. Carefully transfer the baking sheet to the broiler/grill until the cheese is melted and bubbling, about 5 minutes. Serve hot.