Thursday, January 13, 2011

Recipe Revisit: French Onion Soup

Good evening everyone! Tonight, Maggie is making a return visit to french onion soup. You may recall, I first tackled this recipe a few months back and I have to say, that it has got to be the most complicated dish I've cooked to date. The onions were cooked in stages, one hour at a time for two sessions. Next, I cooked the onions in a large stock pot (adding sherry every 15 minutes or so to deglaze) for another 45 minutes. Finally, the soup had to simmer for almost another 30 minutes before being fully cooked. The idea to a perfect french onion soup is to caramelize and deglaze the onions as many times as possible. This brings forth the deep, hearty flavor that the soup is known for.

While this wasn't a hard recipe by any means, it was very VERY time consuming. In the end, the flavor was amazing (according to Maggie - who is the french onion soup fan around here - I could take it or leave it) and all of that hard work paid off in the end. When Maggie told me she had found a french onion soup recipe that didn't require caramelized onions or deglazing - I was skeptical. I was sure that compromising the cooking time would compromise the flavor as well. Was I right? Or is Maggie's quick french onion soup the new standard? I'll turn the keyboard over to Maggie and let her tell the tale.

The Recipe:  American Onion Soup
Original Recipe Found On:

What You'll Need:

8 1/4 Inch Slices Baguette
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
2 Yellow Onions, Cut in 1/4 Inch Slices
2 White Onions, Cut in 1/4 Inch Slices
1/4 Cup Cognac
6 Stems Fresh Thyme, Whole
2 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
2 Cups Beef Broth
8 Slices White Cheddar Cheese
Fine Sea Salt
Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

Good evening everyone!  As the Arctic cold descends on central Iowa, it's nice to think of a hot bowl of soup.  Whether it's tomato (with the quintessential grilled cheese sandwich,) chicken noodle, or chili, everyone has their favorite and makes it on days such as these.  Although I am partial to a lot of types of soups, hands down, my favorite has to be French Onion Soup.  The warmth that the onions provide and the flavor is quite amazing - not to mention that it typically involves cheese...which, you should all know by now that it might by my favorite food.  Nonetheless, tonight, I'm tackling a twist on this great soup classic.  Will it live up to my onion soup expectations?
In Tyler's original version of French Onion Soup, we pretty much cooked the piss out of the onions, which meant cooking it for two hours the night before and an hour before we put any sort of liquid in our pot.  Tonight's version is a little less time consuming, more "I want to eat this before I need to go to bed" edibility.

Begin by melting the butter in a large pot (Dutch ovens will work fantastically.)  Add the chopped onions to the pot and cook over medium low heat until softened and starting to take color, about 25 minutes.  I was incredibly surprised how fast the onions went soft.  I would have thought for sure it would taken until the recipe was almost complete that the onions would be soft.

Next, slice the baguette and spray each side with cooking spray.  Pop them into a 350 degree oven and toast until golden brown, about fifteen minutes.  Set to cool and remember to keep that baking sheet out.  You'll need it later on... 

Add the cognac and simmer until almost evaporated.  Before I made the recipe this evening, Tyler and I decided to try the cognac, since we never had it before.  Let me tell!  This a very strong liquour and, for me, it burns going on and burns going down the throat.  I'm not a big fan of strong alcohol, but if a recipe calls for it, I'll use it. (Tyler loved it however, and found the flavor to great...)  The smell that accompanied the burning liquid was ever present when I put it in the pot.  But after a minute, it goes away...and eventually, you won't be able to smell it or taste it in the final product.  (If you cannot find cognac - any form of brandy is a suitable substitute) 

Add the chicken and beef broth and thyme leaves.  Raise heat to high, cover pot with lid and bring to a boil.  You'll want to watch on this one as well, because it will start to boil VERY fast and you'll want to ensure that you bring it down as soon as it gets to boil.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for thirty minutes.  Remove thyme leaves.

On the same baking sheet used to toast the baguettes, place two oven safe bowls.  Ladle the soup into the bowls, place several slices to cover the top of the soup, and top all that with the cheese.  Pop these back into the oven for three minutes, or until the cheese is melty.  VERY CAREFULLY, serve the soup, and enjoy!

The Results:

I found myself thinking when I was eating that this could have used more time...A LOT MORE time.  Spoiled by the previous French Onion Soup recipe, I was craving a deep, hardy flavor that leapt from the spoon to my mouth.  The flavor was just so-so, but then again, we did cook the onions for an hour.  The cheddar cheese was a unique twist to this dish, but again, it was truly Americanized, and tasted like the top of a burger.  But in the end, this particular recipe is good for those people craving French Onion Soup and don't want to spend their evening in a kitchen.  It's quick, easy, and gives those wanting a fix an easy solution.

Thanks Maggie! In the end, I was right on target with my early prediction. Cutting the cooking time by 75% cut the flavor by the same amount as well. However, this recipe does some nice substitutions - using the cognac in place of red wine intensifies the flavoring and the white cheddar (or mild cheddar) gives a totally different profile to the dish. This certainly isn't a classic french onion soup recipe - and it really doesn't try to be. (It is the Americanized version after all!) But for those who are looking for a french onion soup (ish) flavor and don't want to invest the time to make the recipe the classic way - or the money to buy it pre-made - this recipe is a nice stand in for the real deal.

That's all we have for you this evening. We're off the next two nights but are planning on sharing a neat little chip recipe that Maggie cooked up last weekend. It's a completely new way to use a pantry item - and it is well worth an attempt for those who follow at home. We'll be sharing that dish on Sunday - so stop back then to see what we've got cooking. Until then,


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