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French Onion Soup has always been one of my favorites. It’s warm, comforting, and a perfect accompaniment for everything from Caesar salad to a giant Ribeye Steak. Traditionally it’s served topped with a crouton then shredded Gruyere as shown in the picture. I’m not a huge fan of soggy bread, but I love dipping so I’d really recommend serving the croutons on the side to dip for execution of the perfect crunch. You could go ahead and top the croutons with the Gruyere and quickly broil those for a cheesy crouton or add the Gruyere straight to the soup or skip it all together. I’m not picky, I like it all ways.
I’ve been uninspired in my culinary pursuits lately, and just plain distracted in my grocery runs. Consequently, I realized yesterday I had 16 yellow onions on my counter. What better way to remedy that than french onion soup? So I got out my rubber gloves and goggles and got to chopping. Kidding. Luckily chopping onions doesn’t bother me nearly as much as some people. I only cried twice. And frankly, I think I needed it. Perhaps preparing this soup should be considered an emotional cleanse. I attribute my success in limited tear production to my very sharp chef’s knife, thanks to my brand new knife sharpener, and the flame from my gas stove. According to this wikipedia article , there’s some science to the sharp knife theory, and they also suggest chilling your onions if you’re concerned.
It’s no wonder I love this soup with the amount of alcohol that goes into it, the heating process actually burns off the alcohol content, but the flavor remains. If you’re not a huge alcohol fan, I’d recommend keeping the sherry/cognac for deglazing – at least at half their amounts, but skip the red wine and replace it’s quantity with more beef stock. But that’s only if you’re anti-alcohol. I think the flavor is perfect, complex, and engaging just as written. I think most chef’s use white wine in their French onion soups, I use red for a variety of reasons. First, because I use beef stock and beef pairs best with reds, IMO. Second, for color. Third, I simply prefer red wine, and someone has to finish off that bottle. And if you’re not a beef eater, like I know several of you aren’t, feel free to change this to chicken stock, or vegetable stock if you must. But then you’re really going to need the alcohol for flavor. *wink*
The last caveat I have is that the easiest way to destroy this soup is to accidentally use sweet onions. Well it won’t destroy it, it just won’t be the flavor you’re expecting at all. You need the yellow, dry onion flavor. Sweet onions like Vidalia, Walla Walla, Maui and Texas 1015 are generally larger and rounder. Yellow onions are small and firm, and in my experience, the outer papers seem more closely attached to the skin. If you’re worried, look for the onions in bags, then confirm that the label reads “Yellow Onion” and nothing else.
French Onion Soup
8 peeled yellow onions, sliced to rounds, then halved to half moons
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1/2 c. cognac
1/2 c. dry sherry
1 and 1/2 c. Shiraz or Cabernet wine
8 c. beef stock (Kitchen Basics recommended)
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
fresh ground pepper
In a stock pot with the heat a quarter of the way past medium towards high, combine the onions, bay leaves, oil, and butter. Cook for 55 minutes until onions are soft and browned, stirring every five minutes or so with a wooden spatula. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan, and if you’re at all concerned about your onions burning, reduce the heat just a bit.
Add cognac and sherry to deglaze the pan, being sure to scrape up any brown bits and and combine. Cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Add wine, cook 20 minutes uncovered. Add beef stock, increase heat to high, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a quarter of the way past low towards medium. Add thyme and simmer for 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, amount will vary based on seasoning content of stock. I used approx 2 and 1/2 teaspoons of salt and probably 15 turns of fresh ground pepper. Let simmer another five minutes, retest, and adjust if needed. Remove bay leaves, then serve traditionally, topped with a crostini and shredded Gruyere, broiled for a quick minute or with toppings to the side.