Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been having a proper Minnesota winter. More often than not the highs were topping out in the single digits with wind chills hovering around -15 degrees Farenheit. If you’ve ever lived in this climate, you know how appealing a piping hot bowl of soup can be. In the middle of this cold snap, our friend Ring came over for a visit and I decided to make some homemade french onion soup.
This is yet another example of the necessity to properly read through the recipe and plan accordingly. The first night I ended up staying awake until one in the morning cooking the onions. Not the best thought out plan. Of course, the other option was to be eating at 10 p.m. the next night. But, I digress.
The recipe I used is from the 9th season of America’s Test Kitchen.
Ingredients – Soup
- 3 Tbs Unsalted Butter, cut into 3 pieces
- 6 large Yello Onions (approx. 4 lbs), halved and cut into 1/4″ slices
- 2 C Water, plus extra for deglazing
- 1/2 C Dry Sherry
- 4 C low-sodium Chicken Broth
- 2 C Beef Broth
- 6 sprigs Fresh Thyme, tied with kitchen twine (I just used a heaping Tbs of dried)
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Black Pepper
Ingredients – Cheese Croutons
- 1 small Baguette, cut into 1/2″ slices
- 8 oz shredded Gruyère Cheese (approx 2 1/2 C) (I used Mozzarella because I’m too cheap to drop $20 on cheese for one recipe)
For the Soup: Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed pot (at least 7 quart) with nonstick cooking spray. Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 tsp salt. Cover, and cook for 1 hour. The onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume. Remove the pot from the oven and stir, scraping the bottom and sides. Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar. Continue to cook the onions until they are very soft and golden brown. This will take 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours longer. At the 1 hour mark, stir the onions and scrape the bottom and sides again.
(This is a good stopping point if you want to split up the cooking. Just let the pot cool and stick it in the fridge till you are ready to get back to the cooking.)
Carefully remove the pot from the oven and place it over medium-high heat. Using oven mitts to handle the pot, cook the onions, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, approx. 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the bottom of the pot is coated with a dark crust, approx. 6 to 8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary. Stir in 1/4 C of water, scraping the bottom to loosen the crust. Cook until the water evaporates and another dark crust forms. Repeat the deglazing 2 or 3 more times until the onions are very dark brown. Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, approx. 5 minutes.
Stir in the broths, 2 C of water, thyme, bay leaf, and 1/2 tsp salt. Scrape up any final bits of browned crust on the bottom and sides of the pot. Increase the heat to high and bring up to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard the herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the Croutons: While the soup simmers, arrange the baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree F oven until the bread is dry, crisp, and golden at the edges, approx. 10 minutes
To Serve: Adjust the oven rack to 6″ from the broiler and heat the broiler. Set individual broiler-safe crocks on a baking sheet and fill each with 1 3/4 C soup. Top each bowl with 1 or 2 baguette slices (don’t overlap) and sprinkle evenly with the cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges, approx. 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
From start to finish, this recipe took me around five and a half hours to complete. Granted, half of that time was waiting for the onions to brown in the oven, so it was time-consuming, but not very labor intensive. Just make sure you give yourself a nice big block of time when you plan on cooking this.
Ring gave me crap about not properly melting the cheese on top, but my feelings would have been hurt otherwise. Lindz said that this even surpassed the french onion soup at one of the restaurants where she used to work, which previously was her favorite. Score one for the TJ! For a relatively short list of ingredients, I thought that this method gave a nice depth to the flavor of the soup.
A favorite soup around here is butternut squash soup. While digging through my back issues of Cook’s Illustrated (Sept / Oct 2011), I came across one that had a recipe for it, so I just couldn’t resist giving it a try.
- 2.5 lbs Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2″ chunks
- 2 Tbs Butter
- 1 Leek, white and light green parts only. Quartered lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
- Salt and Pepper
- 4 cups Veggie Broth
- 1-2 C Water
- 1 Tbs Thyme
- 1 Bay Leaf
- Pinch Cayenne Pepper
- Sour Cream
Place the squash in a bowl, cover, and microwave until a paring knife easily slides through, 14-18 minutes. Stir halfway through. Transfer the squash to a colander set in a bowl, drain for 5 minutes and reserve the liquid. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add squash, leek, and 1 tsp salt, cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash starts to break down and brown fond forms in the bottom of the pot, about 10-13 minutes. Add 2 cups of broth and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen and dissolve the fond. Add the 2 remaining cups of broth, the reserved squash liquid, 1 cup of water, thyme, bay leaf, and cayenne. Increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the leeks are tender, 6-7 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf.
Using a stick blender puree the soup until smooth. Bring back to a simmer. Add water to create desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and fried leeks (see below).
- 1 leek, white and light green parts, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
- 2 Tbs AP Flour
- Salt and Pepper
- 1/4 C Olive Oil
Toss leeks, flour, and a pinch each of salt and pepper in a bowl. Heat oil in a skillet until shimmering. Add half the leeks and fry stirring often until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel lined plate, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Repeat with the other half of the leeks.