December 13, 2010

A night in France and Onion Soup

Last night we went to France and it was awesome!  I might say that the food of France is in the top three places I am looking froward to most.  We will be there in 126 days! Croissants, wine, macaroons, lattes and baguettes, there isn't one item on France's expansive culinary list that I don't want to try.  And French onion soup is at the very top of my list.  Onion soup is in my top five favourite foods to eat, it is so simple, so easy to prepare but amazingly complex and rich, I could eat it everyday for the rest of my life.  This onion soup was no exception, when I make it I use only onions and thyme, butter and stock with a little salt and pepper.  I top it with a little toasted bread and cheese.  This time Shane made it much more involved, simple but infinitely more complex.  He infused the beef stock with extra onion, rosemary and thyme, strained that out, caramelized the onions within an inch of their lives.  Topped the soup with a few fresh croutons, toasted with oil and garlic and some shredded aged cheddar cheese.  And very tasty it was.

Next we had steak and fries.  My steak was A LOT smaller!  Topped with a béarnaise sauce it was absolutely delicious. Béarnaise is similar to hollandaise in that they are both butter sauces with a tart mouth watering accent.  Where they differ is in the vinegar reductions' composition, where hollandaise has peppercorns, béarnaise has tarragon which gives it a very unique flavour.  The béarnaise is finished with a sprinkle of raw shallots to balance the sauce.

Last I made Ile Flottante, or floating island.  It is a classic dessert that is very sweet, light and decadent. It is composed of light, smooth meringue puffs floating in a 'sea' of creme anglaise and then topped with almond brittle and a caramel sauce.  The dish is very smooth aside from the almond brittle and where the idea of a soft meringue might turn you off, I promise, it's like eating a cloud.

Onion Soup

I think every cook should know how to make Onion soup, so here is a rough guide to how I make it, which is different every time.

1-2 onion per person
1 Tbsp butter per person
Beef, chicken stock, or water
a little bit of a baguette
a handful or gruyere, or another stringy-when-melted cheese

A spring or two or thyme
A slash of red or white wine and some brandy
For something unique, add a little allspice or 5 spice powder

First you slice your onion in half and then into fairly thin slices.  Melt the pat of butter in a saucepan and add the onion on medium heat.  Cook for 3-4 minutes and the turn down to low and cook for as long as you can.  I'd say minimum 45 minutes for a good deep flavour.  Be sure to stir frequently until they are dark and caramelized and smell sweet.  When your onions are a rich, dark brown, deglaze the pan using the white wine and the brandy. Cook out the wine and brandy until nearly dry.  Next, add chicken stock or water (which is what I use), or beef stock, which is Shane's favourite, a few inches above the onions. If using thyme now is the time to add it. Simmer the soup for about thirty minutes, more if you'd like, until the flavors meld.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To finish cut some cubes from your baguette, toss them with melted butter and finely minced garlic, toast them in the oven for a little while.  Sprinkle some grated cheese on top.  You can also just toast slices of baguette in the oven, though croutons are immensely easier to eat.

1 comment:

  1. OH sounds yummy my husband will love this! Thanks for sharing.