Recipes to feed the Wolf – French Onion Soup

french onion soup

french onion soup“Hurry, the wolves at the door, they gather round the table. “ Jomo Morris

A Cherokee Legend

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

The purpose of every cook is to feed the hungry; and more importantly, the wolf we become, because of that hunger.  It’s raining outside and from the look of things today is a good day to spend indoors. Rainy days are best spent in an old t-shirt, fuzzy socks and comfortable pajamas. A rainy day is best for curling up on the sofa. There’s a book you’ve wanted to read for some time. The pitter patter of raindrops falling on the roof is soothing in its constant repetition. It also hungers for something special, a treat for you and yours, something warm, slow simmered and deeply satisfying. The wolf in you demands it and you should consent by spending time in the kitchen making French Onion soup. It’s a classic preparation that requires time and a bit of patience especially in the early stages. French Onion soup has four main components – deeply caramelized Spanish onions, a rich broth, toasted croutons and a thick covering of graitinéed gruyere and parmesan cheese.  A well-made French Onion soup is delicious because you took the time to be patient. It is an experience best enjoyed in the warmth of your home, safely ensconced from the cold and wet. Enjoy your French Onion soup and the wolf within will be happier for it.

French Onion Soup

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking and Smitten Kitchen

3 thinly sliced yellow onions

3 tbsp. butter

1 tbsp.  Olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. granulated sugar

3 tsp. minced garlic

4 cups beef stock

Sprig of thyme

½ cup sherry

Freshly ground black pepper

To finish: [Gratinée]

1 cup grated Gruyere with a ¼ cup parmesan or a mixture of Swiss and Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon butter, melted

12 ea.  1-inch thick rounds French bread, toasted until hard

  1. Melt the butter and oil together in the bottom of a Dutch oven over low heat. Add the onions, toss to coat them in oil and cover the pot. Let them slowly steep for 15 minutes.
  2. After 15 minutes, uncover the pot, raise the heat slightly and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook onions, stirring frequently, for 30 to 40 minutes until they have turned an even, deep golden brown. Don’t skimp on this step, as it will build the complex and intense flavor base that will carry the rest of the soup.
  3. After the onions are fully caramelized, add the minced garlic and let cook for three minutes. Add the sherry in full, and then add the beef stock, a little at a time, stirring between additions. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add the thyme sprig and bring to a simmer and simmer partially covered for 30 to 40 more minutes, skimming if needed. Correct seasonings if needed and remove the thyme sprig but go easy on the salt as the cheese will add a bit more saltiness.
  4. Set oven to broil. Arrange 4 ovenproof soup bowls or crocks on a baking sheet. To each bowl, add a tablespoon of grated cheese. Stir to combine. Dab your croutons with a tiny bit of butter and float a few on top of your soup bowls, attempting to cover it. Mound ¼ cup grated cheese on top of it. Finish for a minute or two under the broiler to brown the top lightly. Serve immediately.

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