It’s French Onion Soup.
I know, I know. It’s just soup, but there’s something so wonderful about good soup. It’s been a heeluva day so thought ‘I’m making my favorite soup.’ Only three ingredients. Onions, oil and water. I know it sounds impossible but we are talking about the French. With a Capitol F. Do you really believe that they made this peasant soup with beef stock? Chicken stock? Sherry? I do NOT think so.
The French peasants would make this with what they had on hand, onions and oil and water. You won’t believe how delicious-and cheap, I have to stay on track here-this soup is.
Now here’s the trick. (This is why people don’t make this soup.) It takes a couple of hours. That’s because of the ‘fond’. You just have to be patient and wait until it develops. It’s not an instant thing. There is no fast food for a peasant. Fortunately, I have time.
So, first I sautéed the onions in plain safflower oil. I used Hains organic cold pressed. And here’s why. It doesn’t have a strong taste. I want onion taste, not oil. I use cold pressed organic because I’m sick as hell and I may as well spend the extra 3$ because after all it might help. When I was well, I’d use any old vegetable oil. Cheap and fast. Now, I’m broke as hell, but what I have, I spend on good quality. If its going inside me, it’s going to be the best I can get.
Here’s another thing, you have to use the right pan to get a good fond. Enameled cast iron is great. Or plain cast iron. Stainless steel? Maybe but you have to watch it like a hawk so it doesn’t scorch the fond. Never use aluminum or Teflon. I’ll come and find you…
So you have your pan of onions, sliced not too thin, cooking at medium until they are caramelized. Then you deglaze the pan with water to stop the onions from sticking. Scrape up the brown oniony oil from the bottom and let it reduce again. Reduce the water, you’ve only put in about 1/4 to a 1/3rd of a cup, so leave it alone to dry up and start forming a second fond. And then a third and then a fourth. Cooking, deglazing and scraping. And smelling. So delicious…
You’re going to do this a lot over the next couple of hours, until the onions are a deep mahogany brown. Finally, you add a splash of white wine. Not red. Too strong. White. Then add about 8 cups of water. I know I know, WATER! Don’t waste your time and money on beef stock and chicken stock and thyme and sherry…no. Just try it the peasant way. Plain. Simple. Fond. The flavors have been developing while you’ve been doing whatever. Chasing coyotes?
That’s what I was doing. Lost 2 more chickens. Burned part of the fond. Had to switch pans and start over. Grrrrr….it was so close to being done.
But it was done, finally. Then you have to make croutons. This can be done while you are between deglazings. Take a stale, good quality baguette, maybe 1/2 a one you had sitting in the freezer waiting for the perfect bread pudding or French Onion Soup. Yes, that one.
Slice it thin, if its stale it’s easy to slice thin.
To make garlic oil, take a clove or two, sautéed in 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 butter, how much depends on how many croutons you want. I used about 1 tablespoon each. Briefly, very briefly, sauté the garlic. Do not caramelize it. It gets bitter. You just want to release the aroma into the oil. Then take tongs and dip the slices into the oil. Don’t get chunks of garlic all over the bread. It has to broil and the chunks will scorch and taste bad. Take my word for it. You’ll take that garlic and toss it in the soup…adds just the right amount of zing!
cover with a couple slices of cheese, I used provolone.
You will never convince me that you need to spend anything but time on a good French Onion Soup.