Shortly before the holidays this past year I found myself packing again. Yes, for the fourth time in the last seven years we were on the move again. Although this time was because we purchased a condo. Not that you really plan these things - but we closed right before Halloween and found ourselves moving in the week before Thanksgiving. Not the easiest to indulge in holiday festivities when you are amongst boxes from a move, but we managed.
Slowly this place is becoming a home. We have been picking out paint colors, paint finishes, hanging art work, deciding on new furniture, researching appliances, picking out things like tile & countertops, while also budgeting a remodel of the kitchen and bathroom. It seems like it never ends. I am in no way complaining, but it does get overwhelming at times. We have spent too many nights now walking around with a tape measure, level, pad, and pen in hand. On the plus side, we are getting somewhere. I am happy to say that all the boxes are finally gone, we may have piles of miscellanies and random things; but I rather we take our time, as I know rushing never does us good in the long run.
The other day as I was unpacking a rug that finally came in. I was placing it under our dinning table when I though to myself - It’s time I make a special meal to eat at this table. We have earned it with all that we have been doing around here! I hate to admit it, but most of our meals been what ever is laying around and quick to make. Lucky for me I made a pot of vegetable stock earlier that day (something I commonly do on my days off), so it seemed like a no brainer with the onions and cheese we had on hand that we indulge in a classic…French Onion Soup.
This is one of those classic dishes that is just splendidly perfect. When it is made right it is rich in flavor, and the chewiness of it’s melted cheese is soothing to your soul. It is comforting and reassuring especially when facing so many impending decisions. In the same moment French Onion Soup is elegant enough to make us feel like the adults we are and not these crazy vagabonds on the move yet again. With all the home ownership remodeling whoas that we now face - the moment we indulged in this soup it actually made all those worries melt away. There could not be anything more complete to reassure us we are on the right track.
Below is the recipe for the best French Onion Soup I know of. It is also followed by a great Vegetable Stock recipe I felt I needed to share. I am also leaving with you four key factors to keep in mind when making a French Onion Soup. I personally feel these are what makes or breaks a great French Onion Soup: 1) Slice the onions as evenly, and thinly as possible from root to tip.This helps the onion retain it’s shape. If you slice the onions cross way the onion will break down and become a pile of mush. 2) Let the onions simmer and caramelize, this will take time. The darker the caramelization on the onions will always equal out to better flavor in the soup. 3) Gruyère Cheese is the most perfect accompaniment to the toast for this soup. 4) Aged balsamic is my secret weapon for balancing out the flavor of this soup.
French Onion Soup (serves 4)
4 - 5 medium yellow onions (sliced thinly & evenly as possible, root to tip)
2 tbsp of unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, chopped small
1 tsp dry thyme
2 bay leaves
1 cup dry sherry
1 1/2 quarts veggie stock (chicken or beef is okay to use)
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
1-2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
1 baguette, sliced 1/2 inch thick (about 2-3 slices per person)
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
First, place a large pot (I prefer a dutch oven) over a medium heat. When heated through melt your butter and add in you olive oil. Add the onions and stir to coat. Once the onions start to simmer and become fragrant lower your heat to a low/medium heat. Be sure to keep the onions in an even layer across the bottom of the pan.
Next, you are looking for the onions to caramelize. This will take time and patients. You will need to stir the onions occasionally to prevent sticking, but it is important to not lump the opinions. Try to keep them dispersed evenly across the pan. If you get some sticking across the bottom of the pan that is fine, but try to keep the onions or the pan from burning. Once the onions have developed some caramelization add in your thyme, bay leaves, and garlic. Let it simmer together. Season it all with a bit of salt and pepper. Continue to let the onions caramelize, without burning.
Then, deglaze the pan with the sherry. Using a wooden spoon to stir and scrape up the bits that have suck to the bottom of the pot (this is where a lot of flavor lies). Bring it all to a simmer. Once the liquid is reducing add in your stock. Stir it all well and bring all the liquid to a simmer to let the flavors marry together.
Finally; with your broiler on, place your baguette slices on a lined sheet pan. Top each slice with your grated gruyere and place under the broiler. You are looking to melt your cheese and toast it slightly. When your bread and cheese slices done, remove from the oven and let cool slightly. At this point add in the balsamic to your soup. Stir it well and taste to adjust the seasoning if needed. To serve, ladle the soup into your bowls and top with your cheese bread. I like to add extra black pepper, but maybe that is just me. Enjoy.
2 onions, trimmed and cut into quarters
2 large carrots, chopped into 2 inch pieces
3 stalks of celery, chopped into 2 inch pieces
3-4 cloves of garlic, whole
1/2 cup dried mushrooms of your liking
2 tbsp herb d’ Provence
2-3 bay leaves
1 tbsp black pepper corns
2 tbsp of kosher salt
3-4 quarts of water
Place all the veggies and spices into a large pot and cover with the water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce your heat. Let the mixture simmer until it is reduced by a1/3. Remove from heat and let cool before straining the liquid from your veggies and spices.
I keep the stock in the refrigerator (for up to a week), or I place it in quart containers and freeze until they are needed.
*NOTE: This is only an outline to how to make a veggie stock. For example - in the winter I add parsnips when I have them on hand, and in the summer I will add tomatoes or corn cobs.