Thursday, November 8, 2007

Onion Soup

I'm making onion soup. That's an excellent thing to do when you feel that there is nothing to eat at home, and it's the closest thing to feeding the masses with loaves and fishes that we mere mortals may ever know. All it takes is a pound or more of onions, sliced thinly and sprinkled with salt and sugar and left to brown in butter and oil over medium heat while you root around for the other things.

If you're like me, you've got all kinds of useful things stuck away in the freezer. Take out that old bread now, the loaf that was dry and just short of molding when you threw it in there for safekeeping or breadcrumbs, whichever came first; slice it into baguette-ish slices and brush each side with melted butter. Line these up on a baking sheet and stick the whole business in the oven, set at 350 degrees. Check back in 10 minutes to flip them, and take them out 10 minutes after that. When you do, have a garlic clove peeled and cut in half on hand, and rub it on the cut sides of your toasts. Leave the oven on for browning purposes later. Anyhow, baby, it's (finally) cold outside.

In the meantime, keep adding lots of salt. You'd be surprised how much it takes, especially when you're using homemade stock, which has no salt in it and which by this time you've taken out of the freezer too if you're lucky enough, like me, to have a husband who makes it and concentrates it and freezes it into little cubes for just these kinds of occasions.

When the onions are looking good and brown and nigh unto burnt, you can switch to flour and sprinkle a good couple of tablespoons over them. Then stir like crazy. After 3 or 4 minutes, pour in a half cup (ish) of a sweet, dark rich alcoholic little something-something. It's supposed to be vermouth, but if you happen to brew chocolate stout and have that on tap, I'm sure you won't mind if you do.

With the hooch to loosen things up, you'll be able to scrape most of that brown goodness off of the bottom and into your soup. To which you should now add about 6 cups of stock, more salt, a bay leaf or two, and any spices that come to mind. The dried thyme is good, and the fresh Italian parsley you bought for the dinner party but then forgot to use is perfect. Put a whole handful of stems in there, and crank up the heat. You're going to boil it first, then cut it back to a simmer and keep it there, covered, for a half hour.

Here's where I've gotten to now: I've just shut off the burner and ladled soup into two bowls and picked out the parsley stems. Th'usband is spending the evening with a friend whose father just died, so he won't be home for awhile and his bowl can wait. Mine I top with the aforementioned toasts and a good stiff layer of grated Gruyere left over from last week's fondue, even if Gourmet--on whose basic recipe all this is based--says I ought to feel relieved for the chance to escape the tyranny of overcheesed restaurant onion soup; I pile it on and stick the bowl in the oven. Whoops. I forgot the Worcestershire and the brandy. I just recently bought a quality bottle of brandy so you'd think I'd be putting it on my breakfast cereal. Oh, well. I pour th'usband's soup back into the pot--we've really got to stop eating so late, but I don't believe that he'll make it back from Long Island in an hour anyhow--and dose it with two capfuls of the Worcestershire and a huge salad tong-type spoon of brandy. This means that his will be better than mine later on tonight, and of course whatever is left will be even better tomorrow. That's the way soup is.

But by now, the cheese on mine has got to be melted and all that's left but the shouting is for me to put it under the broiler for a minute to brown it. Then lift my spoon to you, dear reader, and bid you smakelijk eten.

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