julia child, mastering the art of french cooking, julie powell, french cuisine

A Lonely Little Petunia in an Onion Patch

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“Good stuff.  Eric’s got a problem with croutons (don’t ask, I don’t get it), so he’s got something of a problem with the soup.  Actually, now that you mention it, I guess I can understand not liking soggy bread in your soup.  But it’s soggy with onions, so how bad could it be?” – Julie Powell 

After having been separated from Julia and MtAoFC for a week, I was going through a cooking withdrawal. So over the weekend I decided to whip up a light lunch before we headed off to the circus. The easiest and quickest thing I could come up with was a soup, and it was up to Ben to determine which one we’d have. He decided on Soupe a l’Oignon (onion soup), and I have to admit, I was a little skeptical. The idea of an onion soup – with nothing else – seemed a little boring. But surely Julia wouldn’t put a boring recipe in her book, would she? No, she wouldn’t. And don’t call me Shirley.

Dang it!

While this recipe was really easy, it did take a little bit of time. I cooked sliced onions in a pan with butter and oil for about 15 minutes. Next, I added some sugar and salt and let the pan cook for about 30 minutes. And then I burned the onions. And then I threw them away and started over. And then I thought to myself, “So much for quick and easy.” But that was my own fault. The second time, things went fine.

While the onions cooked on the stove with the sugar, I made croutons by slicing a loaf of French bread and cutting the slices into cubes. These were tossed into a roasting pan and baked in the oven at 325 degrees for about 30 minutes, drizzling with olive oil and flipping them over halfway through the cooking process. These croutons turned out great – nice and crispy, golden brown.

Croutons and Onion Soup

When the onions had turned an even brown, I stirred in some flour and added about 2 quarts of boiling brown stock. A little vermouth and some seasonings, and I simmered the soup for about 3o more minutes. When done, I used a ladle to scoop servings into a bowl, which I topped with croutons and some shredded Swiss cheese.

Sitting down to eat, I couldn’t help noticing how much this French onion soup looked like the soup from La Madeleine. It was delicious!! A little on the salty side (not that I’m complaining!), the flavor of the brown stock was strong enough to match the power of the onions, so you couldn’t really notice one over the other. The cheese really made the meal, melting into the hot soup and bringing all the flavors together. The onions were super thin and soft, so you could hardly even tell they were in the bowl, and the croutons soaked up the soup enough to add a hint of crunch to the meal. Julia recommends serving the soup over rounds of hard-toasted French bread (follow the same recipe as the croutons, but leave the bread in big slices rather than cubes). I would definitely try that next time. Ben and I both had seconds before we had to, hit the road, and we couldn’t believe how tasty the soup was.

French Onion Soup

But fair warning, folks – you might want to pop a mint before heading out into the world after eating this soup. This meal leaves a strong aftertaste that you’ll be noticing for hours. Mmm. Onions.

The best thing about this soup is that it could stand alone as a main course, or it could be a light side dish for a bigger meal. Either way, I highly recommend you give this one a try. Even if you’re not a big fan of onions, I bet you’d like this dish. We sure did!

– Jessica

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