In honor of Julia Child’s birthday last week (and because I really wanted it), I give you a recipe from her ingenious and groundbreaking cookbook. So much has already been said about this incredible woman and chef that I feel the best justice I can offer to her memory is to simply let the food speak for itself. And boy does it ever…..bon appetite!
Onion Soup (Soupe à l’Oignon)
Adapted, only slightly, from Mastering The Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1
1 1/2 pounds (approx. 5 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, plus additional to taste
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 quarts beef stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons cognac (optional)
In a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart saucepan, or Dutch oven, heat the butter and the oil together until the butter is fully melted. Add the onions, coat in the butter and oil, cover, and cook on fairly low heat for 15 minutes. Next, uncover and raise the heat to moderate. Stir in the salt and sugar (helps the onions brown) and cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Make sure to stir frequently until the onions have turned a deep, golden brown.
Sprinkle in the flour, stir for 3 minutes, then add the wine. While the onions are cooking, bring the stock to a boil. Take the onions off the heat and stir in the boiling stock. (You could also just add the stock a little at a time, continually stirring until all the stock is incorporated). Season to taste and simmer, partially covered, for 30 to 40 minutes or more, skimming occasionally. If needed, correct the seasoning and stir in the cognac, if using, right before serving.
This is where the technique differs from person to person. ‘French Onion Soup’ as we know it in restaurants is a variation of this recipe. You can do whatever works best for you but I added approx. 1/2 cup of grated Pecorino Romano cheese (you could use parmesan) into the soup during its final simmering stage. Then, I ladled the soup into 2 oven safe bowls* (there was plenty left over), topped with 4 pieces of toasted baguette with a little extra virgin olive oil and salt on top and approx. 1/4 cup (per bowl) of grated Gruyere cheese. Finish the whole thing with another sprinkling of Pecorino Romano before placing under the broiler for 1-2 minutes. Just until the cheese is fully melted and gooey. Salty, comforting, and a hint of sweetness – nothing soothes over a rough day quite like a bowl of Julia’s onion soup.
*These bowls went into the oven on foiled lined baking trays.