Monday, January 3, 2011

Soupe à l'Oignon

For years I have loved French Onion Soup. When I was young, there was a French restaurant (I’m using this term loosely) in our local mall. This is where I first encountered Soupe à l’Oignon. I would eat all the cheese off the top, then the soaked crouton, and then spoon up all the broth, leaving a neat pile of caramelized onions in the bottom of my bowl. I can’t explain my fear of the onions, except that to my 10 year old self they seemed icky. I gradually came to discover that they were, in fact, the very best part of French Onion Soup. This, of course, means that removing the customary cheese doesn’t have to equal the demise of all flavor. In fact, what resulted was an exquisitely delicious soup that I can’t stop thinking about.

1/4 cup olive oil
5 medium onions halved and sliced finely
2 shallots halved and sliced finely
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup white wine
5 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon white miso
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 loaf crusty bread

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions and sprinkle with a good dose of salt. Stir until the onions are coated with olive oil. Cover and cook over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes, or until very tender. Remove the cover and raise the heat to medium high. Allow the onions to caramelize, but not burn, for 15 minutes.

Add the wine to the onions, and simmer until it is almost completely absorbed. Add the stock, bay leaves, and a good grind of black pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the bread into 1” thick slices. Brush both sides with olive oil, and sprinkle with a touch of coarse salt. Place on a baking sheet. Broil until both sides are golden and crispy, flipping the slices as they toast.

Remove the cover from the soup, and add the miso and soy sauce. (Don’t be frightened by these Asian flavors in your French soup. They add the perfect umami flavor, or yumminess, that you would find in a meat based soup).  Taste for salt and pepper. Ladle into deep bowls, and top with a piece of toasted bread. Enjoy immediately!

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