Soup Worth Crying For

October 15, 2003

Soup Worth Crying For

The first time that I remember having French Onion Soup was when I was in high school. We were on a family trip to Montreal and in the old city we stopped for lunch. I was served a wonderful steaming bowl that was covered with melted and oozing cheese. The crouton under the cheese was deliciously laden with the soup and the onions below were melt in your mouth.

I remember dipping my spoon into the crock and pushing it against the side to cut off a bite of cheese and the toasted sopping bread. Blowing on it to cool it down, I did not want to scorch my mouth and ruin the rest of the experience. I had never had something so tasty that seemed so simple. I wondered how they melted the cheese on the top. I loved the contrast of textures and tastes that were so compatible.

Every now and then, for years, I would order a bowl of French Onion Soup and savor each bite. In the last ten years, since the more frequent cooking shows on t.v. and the recipes on the internet, I have seen a few that looked good. I remember watching “Two Fat Ladies” (an entertaining duo) with the two of them cooking french onion soup on a camp stove for a crew of people out hunting or something. I watched one other show with a guy cooking. He was adamant about sweating the onions down. I don’t remember the show or who it was, but I do remember thinking that I had to get that recipe. He seemed like he had it down, and this was the recipe to get. I searched for it on the internet. I hunted and tried quite a few.

If you are serious about making it, buy or borrow a mandoline (you can get one for under $50) or a v-slicer. I always cry when cutting alot of onions. The only way I have found to lessen the effect, and I have tried many, is to run the onion under cold water after slicing off the ends. My son Eli seems to have inherited my intolerance of onion “fumes”, so if I need to cut some, I try to get it done when he is not in the house. You will have a large pile of onions that will cook down significantly.

The recipe below is the one that I have used for a few years now. It is worthy of being the only recipe you ever use for French Onion Soup. Please try it. If you don’t have ovenproof bowls or crocks, try melting the cheese with a kitchen torch if you have one.

French Onion Soup

This soup is fabulous. It looks more difficult than it is. Use a mandoline to slice the onions and it will go quickly. I don’t remember the source of this recipe, that I’ve had for several years.

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. onions, thinly sliced
pinch sugar
5 cups beef stock ( or boullion)
salt & pepper to taste
4 thick slices of French bread
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
3/4 cup (3 oz.)shredded Gruyère cheese (buy the best quality you can get)-use a little more if you want

1. Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan. Add onions and sugar.
2. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are a deep golden brown.
3. Add stock and slowly bring to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Toast bread on each side and spread with mustard.
5. Ladle soup into heatproof bowls and top with toast. Pile cheese onto toast and broil until cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve at once.
Makes 4 servings.

New England Onion Soup
with Cider and Cheddar Gratin

Good for a change of pace. Tasty in it’s own way, but quite different. From Cold Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase.

4 Tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
2 Tbsp olive oil
5 giant onions, peeled and sliced very thin
1 Tbsp light brown sugar
1/3 cup Calvados
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 cups apple cider
2 1/2 quarts chicken broth
8 slices (1”thick) French bread, lightly toasted
1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup grated parmesan

1. heat butter and olive oil in a large stockpot over med-hi. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Stir in the sugar and cook 10 minutes more to caramelize the onions.
2. Pour in the Calvados and flame it with a match, stand back from the pot!! When the flames have subsided, stir in the flour and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Gradually stir in the cider, then the chicken broth. Simmer uncovered over medium heat for 45 minutes.
4. Preheat the broiler
5. Ladle the soup into ovenproof soup bowls. Top each one with a slice of toasted French bread. Combine the cheddar and the parmesan and sprinkle generously over the soup and bread. Place the bowls on a baking sheet and broil 6” from the heat until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned on top, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve with big spoons.
Makes 8 servings.

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