French Onion Soup – Get your aprons on and crack some bones!

To continue with the eating frenzy that I enjoyed over the weekend, there was the invitation to the Sunday night birthday party with some of the usual suspects.  The requested meal was French Onion Soup.  This is no open-the-package-and-boil-some-water kind of soup. This was the real deal French Onion Soup, which took two days to make – Bill was the chef.  His advice about the beef stock was to use human grade beef bones for the broth.  It took Bill two days to make this masterpiece.

Can we please have the soup!

I realize that some people couldn’t be bothered with ritual cooking, but no matter whether you choose to make or buy your stock, French onion soup is one dish that elevates the onion to high tasting food.

After you read the recipe, it will become clear that the French were and remain a nation dedicated to the preparation of food as art.  Hats off to the chef for a lovely soup! Merci.

Dessert: Whoopie Cake – more on this phenomena later.

Here’s what goes into making a beef stock. Then the onion soup recipe is given below that.

Julia Child’s Beef Stock

Retrieved from: http://www.backwoodshome.com/recipes/row010414.html April 5, 2011 by Richard Blunt

“There are endless variations of this cook’s essential ingredient.

Over the years I have prepared and used many of them. The following is a recipe that Julia Child demonstrated on her cooking show so long ago that I can’t remember the year. It is, in my opinion, the best tasting and most versatile stock you can make.

She started the show shouting, “WHAM, WHAM,” as she broke a number of large beef bones into smaller pieces, using a huge tenderizing mallet and bigger cleaver. I have to admit that I was, initially, more curious as to whether she was going to cut her arm off than I was about the recipe she was demonstrating. But she only slobbered a couple of times as her face vibrated from the force that she was exerting on the mallet.

This recipe requires about a 6-hour shift in the kitchen, most of which is hurry-up-and-wait time. So make sure that you have some other interesting activity that will keep you close to the kitchen and help fill in the dead time.” –Richard Blunt

INGREDIENTS

4 pounds beef bones (cut into 3 inch pieces)

2 each large carrots, onions, and celery ribs (roughly chopped)

7 quarts cold water (if you have lousy tap water, buy bottled)

3 large cloves fresh garlic (Smashed or as Julia would say,” WHAM, “)

1/2 cup canned Italian plum tomato (roughly chopped)

1 each herb bouquet 
Tie, in a piece of cheese cloth,

4 allspice berries,

6 black peppercorns,

1/2 tsp dried thyme,

1 small bay leaf, and 4 sprigs of fresh parsley (roughly chopped)

METHOD

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Arrange the bones and 1/2 cup of each vegetable in a large roasting pan to form a single layer. Roast this mixture, turning frequently, until the bones turn a walnut brown. Transfer the roasted bones and vegetables to a suitable size stockpot.

2. Discard the fat and then de-glaze the pan. To do this: set the pan on the large burner on the stove top, add 2 cups of water to the pan, bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pan. Add the pan juices to the bones and the vegetables in the pot.

3. Add the herb bouquet and the rest of the vegetables to the pot along with enough water to cover the ingredients by at least two inches. Bring this mixture to a simmer on top of the stove. Initially there will be a grayish scum that will rise to the top of the pot. Keep alert for this and continuously scoop it out until it no longer appears.

4. Loosely cover the pot. Continue to cook the stock at a constant slow simmer for at least 4 hours. Skim off any fat that forms on top and add a little boiling water from time to time, especially if you notice that the stock level in the pot has dropped.

5. Strain the stock through a colander into large bowl and carefully remove any grease that rises to the surface. Strain the stock again. This time, line the colander with a double layer of cheesecloth.

6. Pour the stock into a clean roasting pan and allow it to cool at room temperature. This step must be complete in less then 2 hours to prevent the growth of spoilage bacteria.

7. Transfer the cooled stock into suitable size container and refrigerate or freeze.

The process is slooow food at it’s finest. Hard to believe that after all that work the soup is gone after 20 minutes of eating – a mirage of the senses.

French Onion Soup Recipe

INGREDIENTS

4 Tbsp light olive oil

8 cups thinly sliced onions

1/2 tsp granulated sugar

1 level Tbsp flour

2 1/2 qts your best home made beef stock

4 Tbsp good brandy

Note: Homemade beef and chicken stocks, when made properly, do not contain flavor enhancers like salt and pepper. This important feature makes homemade stock more versatile in many different recipes, and absolutely essential in this one.  – Richard Blunt

METHOD

1. Set a heavy bottom sauce pan over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions. Cover the pan and cook the onions slowly until they are tender and translucent. This will take about ten minutes.

2. Remove the lid, raise the heat to medium high, and stir in the sugar. Continue to cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they take on a dark walnut brown color. This will take about 20 to 25 minutes.

3. Sprinkle in the flour and continue to cook the onions while stirring for an additional 2 minutes.

4. Remove the onions from the heat and set them aside (without removing them from the pot) to cool a little.

5 While the onions are cooling, heat the stock to a slow simmer. Stir about 3 cups of hot stock into the onions along with the brandy. Return this mixture to the stove over medium high heat and bring it to a simmer. Cook this mixture while gently stirring for about 3 minutes.

6. Add the remaining stock, loosely cover the pot, and slowly simmer the soup for about one and a half hours.

7. Adjust seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper before serving

Well my friends, there is the recipe. I hope you will have fun preparing and eating this classic example of basic French cooking.” –Richard Blunt

SERVING NOTES From Bill:  Once the soup is ready, grate your Gruyere cheese. Slice up the baguette. Use large ovenproof soup bowls. Ladle a small amount of soup into the bottom of the bowl – just enough to cover the bottom. Then place 2 pieces of bread – lay them flat side-to-side on the soup. Cover with grated cheese, and be generous.  Pop the bowls into the broiler until the cheese melts.  It takes a few minutes, but watch it carefully.  When the cheese melts take the bowls out and ladle the soup on top of the melted cheese bread. Do this until all plates are ready and serve.  I helped with the production line.  The plates were hot!

Enjoy!

 

About kunstkitchen

Visual artist and writer hunting words, languages, visions, and insight in my kitchen - connecting Art (Kunst) and culture and slow food cooking. Credits: Do not own a microwave oven and never have. Do not own a food processor. Chopped veggies in a Zen monastery for a weekend. (Seriously) Classically trained artist. Paint and draw with traditional materials. Live in the Northland where it's six months of winter. Appreciate the little things in life. Sharing food and art experiences and the lessons that my talented and generous friends have given me.
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