The first time I tasted French Onion soup was in France and it was over salted. That was almost 10 years ago and I remained under the mistaken impression that the soup is supposed to be salty, oily, and heavily seasoned with pepper. As much as I love onions, I never thought I would put my lips to a spoon full of the stuff again.
That is, until last weekend. Evan and I love onions, and when he mentioned a craving for French onion soup, I decided to give it a go on my own. Surely, I could avoid the failures of my predecessor? How could a dish so full of onions go wrong?
The first attempt was on Valentine’s day. I skimmed a few recipes and gathered up the most common ingredients that I had on hand. I sliced a big pile of onions (estimating how well they’d cook down into two servings. Answer: 1.5/person for large bowls) and dug up some beef broth, white wine, butter, minced garlic and kosher salt. That is it. No simmering bay leaves, no fresh thyme, no splash of lemon juice, nothing else.
I melted a big chunk of butter in a wide bottomed pot and layered in onions with a few smaller bits of butter and salt. Then I walked away. I poured a drink, and pestered Evan while he tried to prepare that night’s meat dish in peace.
Ten minutes later, I poked at the onions and saw they were caramelizing at the bottom. I tossed them about, both to redistribute the less-cooked pieces and to make sure they were all coated with butter.
When the onions were a soft, golden to dark brown and smelled like heaven, I added the beef broth, a couple glugs of white wine and a hefty spoonful of garlic. I measured by way of saying to myself “does that look like enough broth?” If not, I added a little more broth and tasted in between additions to make sure the flavor wasn’t becoming diluted.
I let the soup bubble away for a while, melding flavors of beef broth and onion and became a magical fusion of love and nourishment. Perfect for a day that’s supposed to symbolize romantic love!
To be traditional, toast some bread (or a comparable alternative) and broil shredded Gruyere cheese on top.
Enjoy, but learn from my mistake the second time I went to make this: don’t skimp on butter, and keep the onions on low temperature– either will result in burned instead of browned onions, and a pouting cook.