Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shedding Tears

Onions are in season and it's cooling down outside. I won't say it's cold yet, because I can still dash out to the car without a coat or jacket on. When I have to find a coat each time I go out, then, it's cold.

Today was a typical November day - cool and overcast, that gave me a craving for soup. But not just any soup, I wanted onion soup. I would call it French Onion Soup, but I don't know if anything I used today, or the techniques used today resemble anything French. So, it's just Ontario Onion Soup. White onions, leeks, sweet onions and red onions. I like that.

To help stop the tears from streaming while you cut the onions, make sure you have a really sharp knife and I find that if you put your onions in the refrigerator overnight there is hardly any irritation at all. This works the best for me. Even at work, I store 50lb bags of onions in the cooler and I can peel and slice that whole bag without one tear! I have also heard that wearing your sunglasses (or other eye glasses) helps too, I have never done it because I think the minute I did it someone would catch me and I'd look like a complete fool.

Our kitchen, and our whole house, smell amazingly good, the caramelized onions, red wine and beef stock were simmering away for a couple of hours.

The soup is also deceivingly good. I used red wine, instead of white as it calls for in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, because I didn't have any white wine on hand. I actually opened a lovely West Australian Shiraz...mmmmm.....I'm finishing off the bottle right now. When I added the wine is turned a gross purplish-brown colour, so I left it on the stove a while longer hopig for a miracle, and a miracle is what I got. The onions are silky, sweet and soft, the broth is rich both from butter and beef stock and the purple haze has gone. Enjoy!

Ontario Onion Soup
Makes 12-14 cups, depending on how long you leave it on the stove.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 lbs onions, thinly sliced (I used white Spanish onions, leeks, red onions and sweet onions, but you can use whatever you have)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
2 litres beef stock
1 & 1/2 cups red wine
salt and pepper, to taste

10-12 baguette slices, about 3/4" thick

3 cups gruyere cheese (about 375g), shredded - to make it more economical, because Gruyere is insanely expensive, but well worth the price, you could do a blend of 50% gruyere, 50% swiss

In a large pan heat the butter and the oil. Add the onions, stir well and then cover and leave to cook over med-low heat for about 30 minutes. They should be nice and soft, with barely any colour to them. Remove the lid, increase the heat to med-high and add the sugar and the salt, and cook, stirring until onions have turned a glorious rich brown colour. This will take another 30 minutes or so, depending on how big your pot is - the wider the base, the quicker the onions will caramelize. Be careful here, because they can burn quickly, and you don't want to have a "smoked" onion soup to deal with.

Add the flour and stir into the onions. Cook this out for about 5 minutes. Add the beef stock and the wine (beware of the wierd purplish hue) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until soup has thickened slightly, returned to a rich brown colour and tastes sublime.

Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Toast the baguette slices until quite crisp. Portion the soup into ramekins, top with a slice of toasted baguette and sprinkle with cheese. Place under broiler until cheese has melted and is all gooey and bubbly with just a hint of colour. Serve immediately, reminding your loved ones that the bowls are really really hot!

And, apologies for not having a picture - I received a new camera - a Nikon 3000D - and I am still figuring out all the buttons, and how to get a quality picture! Next time, I promise!

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