Thursday, January 15, 2009

Best French Onion Soup?

For the actual cooking, see Parts I and II

I've been wanting to make French Onion soup for ages... it's one of my favorite soups, and it seems really fun to make... but we didn't have broiler safe bowls for melting the cheese over the bread. Of course, you don't need that step and can make the soup without it (and we have)... and you could even argue that all that cheese is a distraction from the awesomeness of the onions (I don't, but you could). However, now that Anna is eating cheese, and it won't just be a dish I eat alone, I felt the time was right to buy some bowls and do it for reals.

I was planning on using a recipe we had tried before from that same Cook's Illustrated international cookbook that chicken in a pot came from. It's a pretty neat recipe that involves caramelizing and deglazing the onions countless times to develop a deep rich onion flavor... the best part (if you're dating a vegetarian)? No beef broth, just water. We burned the onions last time we tried it (though I thought it was still tasted pretty good, Anna disagreed) because we didn't really fully grasp what we were doing... but I think we're ready this time. However, unlike what happened with chicken in a pot, I decided to check whether there was an update to the recipe in Cook's Illustrated... and lo and behold! In the very same January 2008 issue, they published "Best French Onion Soup"(I guess it was French month?). It's actually the same carmelize/deglaze method that I find so intriguing except they cook the onions for hours in the oven first to develop a deep flavor, so that they only have to deglaze a few times. It calls for some beef and chicken stock, but instead of just substituting in veggie broth I'm considering going with water. I'm a little worried that vegetable broth would compete with the onion flavor, which is the whole reason to make the soup... so why not just water? That's my inclination anyway... I won't make it before the weekend, so I have time to change my mind.

Here's the shopping list
  • dry sherry, 1/2 cup
  • shredded Gruy√®re cheese , 8 ounces
  • unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons
  • baguette, 1 small
  • bay leaf, 1
  • beef broth, 2 cups
  • low sodium chicken broth, 4 cups
  • fresh thyme , 6 sprigs
  • yellow onions, 6 large
Oh, and if you don't have a subscription to the Cook's Illustrated website, and are too anxious to wait for me to make the soup... here's another blogger's experience with it as well as the complete recipe.