Tonight I’m going to a gathering/recipe exchange in which we were encouraged to bring a dish that reminds us of the holidays. Usually this would mean sweet goodies or hot chocolate or the like. However, I’ll admit the first thing that came to mind was my mom’s French Onion Soup.
She’s a little hazy on details regarding how the tradition began, but either before I was born or shortly thereafter she began making this soup every Christmas Eve. Accompanying it is always a wide range of deli-sliced meats, cheeses, condiments, and rolls for sandwiches. Regarding the sandwich tradition, it began because deli-sliced meat was only available at a couple specialty stores in town, so it was a “special treat” for Christmas, in that it required enough forethought to be purposeful, but easy enough so as to not interrupt all the Christmas brunch preparations. Even now, when deli meats are available at every grocery store [and most likely chock-full of nitrates and other delights], we still keep that tradition alive.
Back to the soup. I’ll admit that growing up I strongly disliked it; I’d turn my nose up at the ladle every Christmas Eve. That is, until college, when I went to Paris. There I was at a delightful little restaurant in the Latin Quarter, and our meals had already been ordered for everyone in the group. The first course was Onion Soup. My initial reaction was eyeroll, but then I decided to be bold and try it. And it was perfect. Salty, deep, with oozy cheese at the bottom. Certainly my mother’s soup couldn’t be this good.
So, the following Christmas Eve I tried hers. My oh my. It transported me right back to that Parisian restaurant. I was hooked.
The best part about this recipe is that it is literally five ingredients and mostly hands-off all day. Admittedly, it is a very simple soup, so it probably isn’t a main dish, but it’s a perfect first course.
All you need is:
[I pictured the wine in a glass for stylistic purposes, certainly not because I didn’t want you to know it came from a box. ;) ]
Regarding the cartons in that last picture, I am a wee bit embarrassed to show them to you. Yes, I know the incredible health benefits of homemade stock (see here and here and here), and I even have beef bones in my freezer. However, it’s been a busy week, and I just didn’t have the wherewithal to make real broth. So there. I am sure you all understand.
The method is just as simple as the ingredients:
French Onion Soup
6 to 8 medium yellow onions
6 Tablespoons butter [I prefer salted]
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 cup red wine [I happened to use a Malbec, but really anything would work]
3 quarts beef broth [feel free to use beef bouillon in water too]
Croutons for serving (recipe below)
Cubes of cheese for serving [traditionally it is Swiss or gruyere, but I always use mozarella]
1. Preheat the oven to 250.
2. Peel the onions, cut in half, slice thinly. [In the picture above, my slices are probably a little too thick.]
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan on medium heat. [It is preferable to use a pan that can transfer from the stove to the oven, like a Dutch oven or a roasting pan, but that isn’t necessary. You’ll just have the messy job of pouring the soup into a different pan for the oven.]
4. Saute the onion slices until limp and transparent. Stir in the flour and simmer for two minutes.
5. Pour in the wine and broth.
6. Cover and bake the soup for 3 to 8 hours. Stir occasionally. The longer the soup bakes, the browner (more toasted) it becomes. Thus, I recommend as close to the 8 hours as possible.
7. Serve very hot with small cubes of cheese and croutons.
5 to 6 cups of cubed bread
3 to 4 Tablespoons butter (I prefer salted)
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 to 1/8 teaspoon dried parsley
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Melt the butter, then stir in the salt, garlic powder, and parsley.
3. Slowly pour the butter mixture over the bread cubes while mixing to coat well. [You can taste one at this point to see if you need more butter and/or seasoning.]
4. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spread the coated bread evenly onto the sheet.
5. Bake for 13 to 16 minutes, until browned and toasted.