Friday, January 8, 2010

French Onion Soup... Comfort in a Crock says that much of the United States is in a deep freeze. So much so in fact that yesterday at the grocery store I overheard two produce guys telling a lady that she wouldn't be seeing any strawberries or oranges for a few weeks until the Southern states thaw a bit. Well, we here in Connecticut are used to chilly winters - after all, it is New England. And while we are experiencing more random snow falls this year than we have in years past, we at least know how to get through, hunker down, and stay warm.

How, you ask?

By making french onion soup.

Ah, french onion soup - the quintessential comfort food.
Here's a simple, accessible recipe that you should try. Today.

Wait wait wait, first we must remember a few very important things which are integral to making a phenomenal batch of french onion soup. First, you must have at least 4 (yes F-O-U-R) types of onions. In fact, five is better, but sometimes you just can't find that many! Yellow, White, Red, Sweet Vidalia, and Shallot - all slightly different and the nuances of each really come out with the caramelization process. This brings us to the second element - a dutch oven. Nothing nothing nothing caramelizes onions better than your trusty Le Creuset. It's a must. And speaking of that caramelization, you must resist the urge to add the liquid too early - let those babies cook! And cook they will, which brings us to the third element - Quantity. You'll want about 6 pounds of onions total. More depending on how much you're making, but for a good ol' big pot of soup 6 pounds should do it. 3 pounds of yellow, 1 pound of white, 1 pound of red, 1 pound of Vidalia, and 3 good sized shallots are all you need to make all of your french onion soup dreams come true.

3 pounds of yellow onions
1 pound of white onions
1 pound of red onions
1 pound of Vidalia onions
3 shallots
olive oil
half a stick of salted butter
a few sprigs of thyme
good sherry vinegar
salt and pepper, more than you might normally add - don't be shy!
2 48 oz cans of good chicken stock (of course homemade stock is best, but let's be realistic)
2 16 oz cans of good beef stock

1. Put your pot on the stove and coat the bottom in olive oil - medium heat. We use the olive oil here because butter is very high maintenance, and since it's easiest to chop and drop as you go, you won't have to worry while you're finishing the onion prep about the contents of your pot burning.
2. Slice the onions. Wear eye protection, and give your pot a stir every once in a while.
3. Once all of the onions are in the pot, add the salt, pepper, and butter and continue the caramelization process - this part should take about 30 minutes, and the onions will cook down to about half their size.
4. Deglaze your pot with the sherry vinegar - just a quick turn of the wrist should do it.
5. Add the chicken and beef stocks. Bring to a boil.
6. Lower pot to low heat and let the liquid cook off a bit, about an hour or two or however long you can wait (as with most things, the longer the better!)

Now, if you want to really fancy things up, you can take it to the next level by ladling your creation into a crock and adding a slice of crusty bread and a few pieces of gruyere cheese and popping it under your broiler. Simple enough, but not to be left unattended, as that cheese can go from golden deliciousness to a burnt mess in a matter of seconds.

Well, there you have it. A simple, affordable dish you can easily entertain with and impress all your friends. Add a great loaf of bread, some nice wine, and you have a cozy gathering just waiting to happen. Bon Appetit!


  1. I am going to try this soon - it looks delicious and such a great winter dish!