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Rainy Day Soup

August 24, 2010

It seems like just yesterday I was whining about the suffocating heat in my little apartment; aching to cook and but having to settle with ice water and cold showers. Now, summer seems to be closing off and I am lamenting the end of this short season. Monday was dreary, the cold rain seemed foreign, as if we weren’t sure where it came from and how to handle it. We have barely seen a drop all summer, how could it suddenly be rainy and in the mid 60’s? I want heat and sunshine! I want to swelter in my apartment! I want to eat popsicles for dinner! How could it already be over?

Last night, after turning all three fans off, I was shocked at how quiet our apartment is. And how chilly. It was the perfect night to curl up on the couch, watch Top Chef reruns and wrap your fingers around a bowl of something warm. With the sudden change in temperature, we needed a soup. I didn’t want to do anything creamy and heavy, after all, it is still august, right?  So I turned to a French onion soup- flavorful and rich without weighing you down too much. The process is very easy and the ingredient list short, but you must be warned that it does take awhile- time is essential in building the flavor and letting the onions come to a perfect carmalization.

I found a recipe on the Gourmet Magazine website and also consulted with my sister. There are very few ingredients, so again, it is important to give the flavor enough time to develop. This warmed us up completely and left our apartment smelling delicious and feeling toasty. No fans for us last night.

French Onion Soup

adapted from Gourmet

6 medium yellow onions
1/2 cup dry red wine (or sherry)
2 cups of water
Soy sauce
Fresh ground black pepper
4 cups low sodium beef broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of dried thyme
1/2 stick of butter
French baguette
Gruyere cheese or Manchego cheese

First cut your onions in half from root end to the top, peel the skin back and slice in to wedges. You don’t want these to be too thin because they really cook down. Its going to look like you have a ton of onions, but again, these cook down a lot.

Heat a heavy-bottomed pot (I used my Le Creuset Dutch Oven) on medium heat and let half a stick of butter melt, then add your onions. Stir to coat all of them with the butter. This is where the “flavor developing” begins. Let the butter cook away and your onions to get slightly limp, when you begin to notice a little browning on the bottom and sides of pot, deglaze the pot with your red wine (go around the pot once- enough to increase the amount of liquid so you can deglaze, but not too much) and be sure to really use your wooden spoon to scrape off every single brown bit. From here on out, keep an eye on your onions, letting them cook down and caramelize, but not burn. When you notice them starting to look a little dry and brown bits are building up, deglaze with a quarter cup of water or so, again being sure to really get all of the brown bits. This was Katie’s tip and it really helps to build an intense onion flavor. Keep doing this for about an hour.

When your onions have cooked down, they should be a nice caramel-brown color, very fragrant and very limp- they should have an almost jam like consistency. Add your thyme, bay leaf, and fresh cracked pepper and mix to infuse the onions before you drown them in the beef broth. Instead of using salt, I used a little soy sauce to add richness and flavor. BE VERY CAREFUL salting or adding soy sauce to your soup- if you don’t use low sodium beef broth, it will already be salted, and the cheese on the crouton also adds a good amount of salty flavor. Add the four cups of beef broth and essentially deglaze like you were before. Lower the heat and bring to a boil. Be sure to taste the soup often to adjust seasoning I added more black pepper and a dash more of soy sauce. Cover the pot and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes.

In the meantime, slice your bread so that it will fit over whatever oven-proof bowl/mug you decide to use. Butter/olive oil both sides of the bread, heat your broiler, and then toss them in on a cookie sheet to brown up. While the bread toasts, grate your cheese. This recipe traditionally calls for French Gruyere cheese, but I opted for a Spanish Manchego because it was about a third of the price at the grocery store. Check on your toasts- let them get fairly brown, you will be glad you did when they still have a little crunch left to them even after they have been sitting in your soup. Ladle your soup into oven proof bowls, top with two of the toasts and cover with the grated cheese. Put the bowls on the cookie sheet used to make the toasts and put them under the broiler till the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown- about 2-5 minutes.

M and I got comfy on our couch and watched some on-demand top chef (thank goodness Alex is gone). The soup filled us up and warmed our chilly fingers, the steam making our noses a little runny. When we had sipped the last of the broth and scraped the last of the caramelized cheese off the sides of the bowl, we both felt warm and satisfied, as if waking up from an afternoon nap- a feeling that became almost foreign in our tropical apartment this summer. While summer may be on its way out and I will certainly miss the sunshine and heat, I think I could get used to warm dinners and cozy nights.

One Comment leave one →
  1. August 24, 2010 2:21 pm

    Hey…I just came across this blog and I’m excited to add you to my daily reads! What’s with this cold weather Boston’s been experiencing?! Not cool. The french onion soup looks awesome, but I hope the heat comes back and I can try the soup later in the fall.

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