Note: This post originally appeared on my old blog on March 13th, 2014. I’ve copied and pasted it below, but removed the links because they won’t work.
First things first….
Yes. This is the story of the past three weeks. All four of us have been on antibiotics for over a week now. Several of us are on the second run. I haven’t been on antibiotics in probably at least five years. Brian? I don’t think he’s been on antibiotics in ten years.
And now. Felled by a sinus infection. Crazy Indiana weather.
OK, so I haven’t really been cooking anything super exciting lately. No one has felt up to eating much, and I will admit that some nights I’ve simply been letting everyone forage for something on their own. The kids have been eating way too many PBJ’s. Brian and I have been subsisting mainly on plain roasted chicken.
And soup. Lots of soup.
My Mom made us my Magic Healing Chicken Noodle Soup and brought that over in a big crockpot. We devoured it. Well, as much as people who can only eat things by the cupful can devour something. 🙂
But then we started feeling a bit better (it is magically healing, don’t you know), and decided we could eat a little bit more….. but still it had to be soup.
And then I thought, why not French Onion? It’d been at least 2 years since I’d made it last, which I’m not sure why because Brian raved about it.
The last time I made it, I simply talked about it in a paragraph, in the middle of an enormously long blog post. So this time I thought it deserved its own post. 🙂
I also did the onions a little differently this time, based on an America’s Test Kitchen recommendation I had read about months ago and stored away in my brain, and I think that made a HUGE difference in the quality of the soup. As ATK said, once you get past the cheese and bread in some onion soups, the broth can be enormously disappointing. I read that and thought, “YES!” The entire process for the onions in this soup, taken directly from ATK’s recipe, is focused on getting a flavorful onion broth, that can be enhanced by the additions, but not saved by them.
Additions such as cheese. Where is it in the photo, you ask? If that’s your thing, go for it. For me, I haven’t been feelin’ cheese as much lately. Because of the new way I cooked the onions, and the mixture of liquors I used, the soup on its own has a very rich and complex flavor, enhanced by the herbed baguette. When I added the gruyere, it did add a nutty niceness, but also made it incredibly rich. I ate two bites of that bowl, and while delicious, I found I simply could not eat any more. Coming off of being sick, I just wasn’t in the mood. The soup went down a lot better without cheese. So there you go. Cheese optional because the soup on its own is a winner. 🙂
French Onion Soup with Baked Herb Baguette Croutons
Yield: about 6 adult servings
4 to 5 large vidalia or other sweet onion, sliced
4 T salted butter, cut into small pieces
1 t sea salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
1 C mixture of liquors/wine*
3 C chicken stock
2 C beef stock
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 recipe homemade french bread
add to that recipe-
2 t dried herbs de provence
1 t ground rosemary
1 t dried chives
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
freshly grated gruyere cheese for the top of the soup or the top of your crostini’s
*I used an even mixture of cognac, sherry, brandy, and bold cabenet sauvignon red wine. You can use all of these or one, keeping in mind the flavor will be more complex if you use all four.
For The Soup: In a dutch oven, cast iron pot, or other oven-safe large soup pot, add all the sliced onions, the butter, and the sea salt. Cover and bake in a 400 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven with oven mitts, open the lid and stir, scraping the bottom to get any bits up. The onions should be reduced in size and softened. Replace the lid and bake another 1 1/2 hours.
Remove the pot from the oven with oven mitts, remove the lid, and stir, scraping the pot. Place the pot over medium heat. Cook 20 minutes, until all liquid has evaporated and onions brown, then scrape the pot, including any bits on the bottom. Add the minced garlic, pepper, and bay leaf.
Cook 10 more minutes, add 1/4 C of the liquor mixture to deglaze the pan, and scrape everything on the bottom into the onions. Do this 3 more times, each time deglazing with 1/4 C of the liquor mixture, to develop a deep flavor in the onions.
Stir in the stocks and remaining 1/4 C liquor and let the soup simmer 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf before serving.
For The Baguette: Place the herbs and pepper into the stand mixer with the sea salt, then soften the years in the water with the sugar. Add that to the stand mixing bowl, add the flour, knead 5 minutes, divide into two, roll out, roll-up (better instructions on how to do this in the linked recipe). Let rise 30 minutes to on hour. Bake at 425 for 8 minutes, top with 1/4 C melted butter, bake another 8 minutes.
Let cool and slice into crostini pieces. Brush olive oil onto pieces and bake at 350 for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip, then bake 3 to 5 minutes more, until they are just under crunchy.
You will have more herb bread than you need for the soup. It will freeze for the next soup night, or you can serve it up with good butter, cheeses, and meats on a fancy cheeseboard night. Or make garlic bread out of it. 🙂
Want to Simplify the Cheese? Sprinkle your half-baked crostini’s with gruyere and melt in oven.
Don’t want to bake your own baguette, eh? Use a store-bought loaf, slice into the crostini pieces, and add the herbs to the olive oil. Brush onto the pieces and bake as normal.
To Serve: Place two herbed croutons in the bottom of whatever bowl you want to use (I don’t have oven-safe bowls – who does? So don’t panic about melting the cheese under the broiler, mmm k?). Ladle the soup over. If you want cheese, I recommend shredding it fresh and sprinkling it on top. If you want to do the whole melty thing, you can microwave it, or use a creme brulee blow torch for added oomph. 🙂 Or hey, if you’ve got those oven-safe bowls, then by all means. 🙂