french fridays with dorie: cheese-topped onion soup
It’s the last recipe in February for French Fridays with Dorie, and, in my opinion, the month ends on a high note. This week’s assignment was cheese-topped onion soup, in other words, classic French onion soup. We loved this soup at my house. It definitely ranks in my (constantly changing) top 10 FFwD recipes so far.
I think it’s safe to say that the last time I made French onion soup was at least twenty years ago. Previously, I’d always made a version from Julia Child. While I always enjoyed it, the deterrent was its beef broth base. Homemade beef stock was never in the cards, and the canned version was never very appealing. I usually resorted to beef stock from boullion cubes, but that was always very salty.
The revelation with Dorie’s version of this soup was its chicken stock base. It never occurred to me on my own to use it, and now that I’ve done it, I can’t imagine why I’d ever make it any other way. I even had time to make my own stock which I’m sure gilded the lily.
Fortunately, I didn’t work on Monday, the President’s Day holiday. My onions took the better part of the day to caramelize, and, even then, they were closer to golden than caramel. I thought the color was good enough, and the taste was very sweet. My onions were also extremely wet as they cooked. They exuded onion juice. I poured about half a cup or more of liquid off at one point because the onions were steaming with no chance of browning.
I don’t know why onions take so long to caramelize for me. I remember having the same experience when we made the pissaladiere. I wonder I’m taking the directions about using low heat too literally.
You know how you are always torn when you have some special-purpose kitchen item, a dish, tool, or gadget that you seldom use, but can’t bear to part with? Well, I guess that’s why I still had the ovenproof soup bowls that I last used a couple of decades ago. They were sitting in the cabinet just waiting for this week.
The bowls were filled with oniony broth, a spoonful of brandy and topped with toasted hearty bread (I used pumpernickel) and a hefty dose of grated Gruyere cheese. After a couple of minutes under the broiler, voila! A burning hot soup, which Dorie tells us is called brûlante in French.
We had cheese-topped onion soup as a starter before dinner two nights this week. It’s not very easy to assemble the full treatment at work with just a microwave, but this soup on its own (naked?), without the cheesy topping, also made a satisfying lunch.
All in all, this was a sure-fire winner. I typically make soup at least once a week, and Dorie’s version of onion soup will become part of my soup repertoire.