Chef grants request with traditional onion soup recipe
A lovely lady has requested a recipe for a classic dish, onion soup.
This soup consists of beef or chicken broth, sautéed onions, seasonings and brandy or sherry.
The foundation of any soup is the stock that serves as its base and focal point for flavor.
You can make your own stock, which will take about six hours to simmer. Or, you can use ready-made beef/chicken/veal stocks that are readily available in the soup section of the market.
The major brands are usually very flavorful and have good clarity. Usually all you have to do is adjust the seasonings to suit your recipe and add whatever ingredients you wish.
If you wish to make your own stock, here is a basic recipe to use when making soups, stews and sauces. At the end of the cooking, to insure a perfectly clear stock, it is strained, skimmed of fat and then brought to a boil with some egg whites and shells, (yes, shells!) then strained again. The whites and the shells remove any fine impurities in the stock.
This basic recipe with a change or two in the ingredients can be made into chicken, veal or game stock.
Basic Beef Stock
(makes about 8 to 10 cups)
5 to 6 pounds beef bones and trimmings
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled coarsely chopped
4 quarts water
1 small onion, unpeeled (this will aide in adding a rich brown color to your stock)
2 to 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 to 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
4 to 5 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 to 3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 to 2 egg whites and shells (optional, for clarifying)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Place the beef bones and trimmings in a large roasting pan and dust them lightly with flour, salt and pepper. Scatter the chopped onion around the pan. Place the pan in the center of the preheated oven. Roast, stirring occasionally, until the meat and bones brown, which takes about one hour.
Transfer the bones and the chopped onion to a stockpot. Over high heat, deglaze the roasting pan by adding 1⁄2 cup of water and scraping up any bits of meat stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add these pan juices to the stockpot. Add the unpeeled onion, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and remaining water.
Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and set the cover ajar. Simmer for 4 to 5 hours. When it has reached the flavor peak, shut the heat off and let the stock cool in the pot.
Strain the stock through a cheesecloth (or, coffee filter lined) strainer and strain the stock into a clean pot. Discard the solids. If you have the time, chill the stock for several hours or overnight. If not, let it rest for 30 minutes then skim the fat from the top.
If you wish to clarify the stock, bring it to a boil in the clean pot, over high heat. Add the egg whites and shells. Stir and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the stock simmer for 5 to 6 minutes. Then strain through a dampened cheese cloth or coffee filter set in a strainer.
The secret to good onion soup is in the cooking of the onions. First they must be sliced thinly, and then cooked gently in butter for a lengthy period of time.
This period of time allows the sugar to caramelize and the onions to turn to a deep mahogany brown color. Little is added seasoning wise, but traditional seasonings are salt, pepper and a pinch of thyme as well as maybe a few drops of vinegar to balance out the sweetness of the onions.
The following recipe calls for a tablespoon of flour. If you are looking for a perfectly clear soup, omit this ingredient.
Once the soup has finished cooking, ladle it into heatproof bowls and float a toasted bread round on top to support the cheese.
Place the cheese on top and place the bowl under a hot broiler until the cheese is melted, bubbly and golden brown. Of course, you can serve the soup without the melted cheese if you wish, just pass fresh rolls on the side.
Bistro Onion Soup
(makes 4 servings)
1 teaspoon sugar
3 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
5 cups beef broth
1/2cup red wine (sherry or brandy can be used if you prefer, adjusting the amount to the potency of the liquor)
4 baguette slices, cut one-inch thick and toasted
8 ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onions for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
Stir in the flour until well blended. Next, add the broth and the wine and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and then cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the onions are tender.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and toast the bread slices until just browned, about 10 minutes. Remove and raise the oven heat to 425 degrees.
Arrange four oven-proof bowls on a baking sheet. Ladle the soup into the bowls and top each bowl with a toasted bread round.
Top the bread with cheese slices, cut to fit the bowl if needed. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or just until the cheese has melted and is bubbly and golden brown.
Carefully place bowls on a serving dish and serve, warning the guests/family that the bowls are very hot!
5 cups water
10 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
5 egg yolks, whisked to mix
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4loaf country-style bread, torn into pieces
In a saucepan bring the water, garlic, bay leaf and thyme to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
Remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Force the mixture through a sieve or food mill into another saucepan. In a large bowl, whisk the yolks, Parmesan, and 2 tablespoons of the oil until well combined. Slowly pour this mixture into the remaining hot garlic broth, whisking to combine well while pouring. Cook the soup over moderately low heat, whisking constantly.
Cook until slightly thickened and a thermometer registers 170 degrees. This will take about 10 minutes and be careful not to let the mixture boil.
Divide the bread cubes/pieces amongst the four bowls. Ladle the broth over the bread and garnish with the remaining tablespoon of oil.
As always, Enjoy!
David Kelly has worked as a chef for more than 40 years. He has shared his recipes, tips and experiences in Culinary Corner for 21 years.