First of all, thanks a bunch to all of you who wrote in with all those words of consolation. It felt good to know I'm not alone in the whole Vday-bday saga. You girls rock. Hugs :)
The husband came back on Friday afternoon with a bad fever and it was like having a baby at home. I panic when anyone other than me fall sick and this was no different. Ro goes a bit overboard and acts like a whiny kid being all 'I'm so cold,' and 'touch and see if I have fever (every 5 mins) and has been on the couch snuggled up under the throw watching telly all day. Every evening I ask him, 'are you going to work tomo,' to which he says 'are you crazy.' So its been lunch and dinner non stop for the past 4 days and it has driven me a bit crazy because I haven't done my usual quota of articles. He claims his appetite has gone for a toss and this morning the fever subsided and turned into a cough and cold. Perfect time for soup I thought and decided on the French onion soup which I've seen in so many restaurants and has been curious about. Scouted around for a recipe and decided on Finla's descriptive one with minor changes.
I am actually jinxed when it comes to soups. I am not crazy about soups and I seldom get them right when I make from scratch. Whenever we crave soup, we go for the canned ones, jazz it up with leek and such and enjoy it hot. I must also add that I am not a fan of the clear soups and prefer the creamy ones (cream of mushroom, chicken and celery topping the list) any day.
That is why I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this soup. I must admit, its not an easy soup to make and takes an awful lot of time. The procedure is pretty straightforward but its all about timing (you cant just leave it to simmer on stove top and watch Gossip Girl in the meantime. I did it and had to face consequences). But the end result is rather rewarding, I assure you. You push past the cheesy bread, dip into the slightly sweet onion soup, and its bliss. Not exaggerating here, but it was delicious on a cold winter evening. I of course paired it with some dry white wine and wished I'd made some more to freeze and keep for a rainy day. Since my soup disasters have been plenty, I was not sure about making a huge quantity and I'm now kicking myself for not doing so. There's always a next time (or is there?).
Recipe adapted from here (serves 2)
Butter- 10 gms
Oil- 1 /2 tbsp
White onions- 2 large, thinly sliced (julienned)
Garlic- 3 pods, chopped fine
Fresh thyme- 1/2 tsp (chopped) (dried is fine as well)
Sugar- 1/2 tsp
Balsamic vinegar- 1 tsp
Plain flour- 2 tsp
Beef stock- 500 ml
Dry white wine- 3 tbsp
Sat and pepper- to taste
Ciabatta slices- 10 to 12
Grated cheese- 1/2 cup (I used a mix of sharp Cheddar, Gouda and Emmental)
Garlic powder- 1 tsp
Olive oil- 2 tbsp
Place a large stainless steel sauce pan over medium heat and melt the butter along with the oil
When it starts to sizzle add the chopped onions, garlic and some salt (to draw moisture out) and stir around for a while till the oil and butter coats them well.
After about 10 minutes, reduce heat to super low, add the chopped thyme and cook for about 30 to 40 minutes or till the onions wilt and turn a light brown (very imp.) in colour. Keep stirring in between to prevent the onion from sticking to the bottom. Caramelising the onions on low heat is the trick towards getting the perfect onion soup. You technically do this over a period of 3 hours (but as we all know, that long for the onions to caramelise is just not worth the effort, especially for a sick husband whose taste buds are all screwed up anyway).
Once you attain the light brown colour, add the sugar, crank up the heat to medium and let it turn darker. This could take about 8 to 10 minutes.
Follow up with vinegar and cook for a further 6 to 7 minutes till the colour completely changes to dark brown. Don't forget to keep stirring in between.
Get the stock ready at this point. Heat it up if using pre-made stock, or if using stock cubes, add boiling water to about 1 beef bouillon cube, dissolve and keep ready.
You can also pre heat the grill at this point.
Add the flour and cook for about a minute.
In goes the beef stock and white wine, stir well.
Do a taste check and season with enough salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 10 minutes.
Transfer to soup bowls.
For the croutons, in a small bowl mix together the olive oil and garlic powder.
Arrange the ciabatta slices on a baking tray lined with foil paper and liberally brush the olive oil-garlic mix on both sides.
Place under a grill for exactly a minute.
Take it out, flip to the other side and chuck it back under the grill for one more minute (I managed to burn mine, so watch it like a hawk).
There are two ways to do this: Transfer the soup into oven safe bowls, top with toasted bread slices and generously scatter the cheese on top. Place under the grill till the cheese melts and then have it hot.
The other way to do this is to add the cheese to the toasted slices, chuck them back under the grill till the cheese melts (about 2 mins) and then top the soup with the cheesy slices.
Replace white wine with Cognac which is better any day
Traditionally a French baguette is used to top the soup, but I'm far from traditional and hence the ciabatta :)
Use 2 minced garlic cloves instead of garlic powder for the bread slices
Be extremely careful while caramelising the onions, as one bad move (could scorch) and your soup could taste bitter.
I followed the second method while assembling simply because my soup bowls were not oven safe.
You should be able to crush the onion easily between two fingers and you can be sure that the consistency is right.