Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Julia Child's Classic French Onion Soup

The images above are from the charming Provence hilltop town of Saignon, France about 70-minutes from Marseilles airport, or if coming from Paris on the TGV to Aix-en-Provence and then by car--it is about 45-minutes drive. The hotel is L'Auberge-Presbytere on the main square.

To make classic French Onion Soup. First put on good French music, pour a glass of wine, fill a crockery jar with a fresh lavender or sunflowers, then assemble all the ingredients and cook away. I met Julia Child twice. Once at a KCET fundraiser-dinner in a big white tent set-up in Griffith Park in LA. And another time online at the grocery store in Montecito where we both lived at the time. I was preparing dinner for fifty and she asked about my menu, which was elaborate. She said 'Oh, just throw some meat on the bar-be-que!' After watching all of her shows and reading her books? Absolument pas! I love to cook!

Ingredients

5-6 cups yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons flour
6 cups beef stock (preferably homemade)
1 cup wine (dry red or white)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
salt and pepper
12 ounces Swiss cheese, grated
4 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 raw yellow onion
2-3 tablespoons cognac
8 slices French bread (about 1 inch thick)
4 tablespoons olive oil, for drizzling

Directions

Place heavy bottom stock pot or dutch over over medium-low heat.

Add 1 Tbs cooking oil, 2Tbs butter to pot. Add sliced onions and stir until they are evenly coated with the oil. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes until they are very tender and translucent. To brown or caramelize the onions turn heat under pot to medium or medium high heat. Add 1/2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp salt and continue to cook uncovered, stirring frequently until the onions have browned and reduced significantly. Once caramelized, reduce heat to medium-low and add 3 Tbs flour to the onions. Brown the flour for about 2-3 minutes trying not to scorch it. (If the flour does not form a thick paste, you can add a bit more butter here). Stir in about 1 cup of warm stock, scraping the bottom of the pan to get up all of the cooked-on bits. Add the rest of the stock, wine, sage, and bay leaf to the soup. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the "croutes" (toasted bread), heat oven to 325 degrees F. Drizzle each side of the bread slices with a bit of olive oil and place on baking sheet. Cook the croutes for 15 minutes in oven on each side (30 minutes total). Check the soup for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Remove the bay leaf (if you can find it). Transfer to a casserole dish. At this point you can add the 2-3 Tbs cognac and grate the 1/2 raw onion into the soup. Add a few ounces of the Swiss cheese directly into the soup and stir. Place the toasted bread in a single layer on top of the soup. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese in a thick layer on top of the bread making sure to cover the edges of the toast to prevent burning. Drizzle with a little oil or melted butter. Place in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Turn on broiler and brown cheese well. Let cool a bit, broiled cheese is very hot. Enjoy!

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