Thursday, February 19, 2009

I See Onions, I See France

Dear February:

I’ve decided that you’re a strange sort of month.

So far in D.C., I’ve noted that you’ve given us balmy Saturdays in the fifties that hint to a perfect Spring, yet today I wake up to snow that, throughout the day, has become a drippy and freezing type of rain that “spits” at you as my friend Vanessa says.

I really wish you’d make up your mind.

In order to help you along I’m going to do my part, and, with the help of some onions, a big pot, and wine, maybe we could officially say “Okay, WINTER, it’s been a fun ride… but let’s get down to business, move on with our lives, and boot you out for the next nine months.”

Whaddya say? I’m in if you are.


Ahem. So, as you can see, I’m kind of tired of this back-and-forth weather action that February has been teasing us with. I’m also a major fan of soups and stews in general, and I figured I could earn some good weather-mojo by making a big pot of French Onion Soup and combine all of these feelings of mine into one meal. Kind of like a rain-dance, except I’m making soup… and I want sunshine instead. Good plan, no?

Now, here I go again being a big fat cheater on my blog. This was my conundrum: scrounge around for a French person to get a recipe out of…which *tear* I don’t really have right now… OR I could just look up French Onion Soup recipes.

So, I befriended Epicurious instead. This is not to say that I didn’t do research. Apparently, a lot of French food comes from old peasant recipes and the same goes for onion soup which has its origins as far back as the Roman Empire. Except, of course, the French one-upped that with the legend that King Louis XV was hungry in his hunting lodge one night (maybe in February?) and had Champagne, onions, and butter… and thus, the predecessor to the modern Soupe à l'Oignon was born. Oh, those French with their butter and good ideas about food…anyhoo. On to the show!

To start off, I put on a little Billie Holiday and began to cut up some onions. SIX whole onions to be exact. Now, I have been known to bawl my head off at chopping one onion. Imagine my joy when I had to slice up six of the little punks.
From new year, new food

(I like the little guy on the right. Looks like he's peeking out from all the others. Bah.)

Anyway, what I lacked in protective goggles I more than made up for in cheap sunglasses, and donned them like a true diva and repeated the song I wear my sunglasses at night, so I can, so I can see and sliced all the onions right on up, with barely a tear. FACT: I will now wear sunglasses whenever I have to chop a lot of onions. Isn’t that super sexy? Oh, I know.

(Proof of my cool factor. Yes, that's my reflection in a French Press. Don't hate.)

I then added a chunk of butter and garlic and cooked the onions on low-medium heat for a good 45 minutes…just stirring and stirring and added some salt when I felt like it, some pepper, a little bit of olive oil, some flour… as you can see, I got a bit bored and took some liberties with the spices and such. Eh, whatevs, it all turned out ok in the end, you know?

(First Stage)

(A little bit softer now)

Oh yes… and I cannot forget the thyme. I added a bit of that too. Then I added the beef broth, some water, and let the whole thing boil then cook down and I just kept stirring and tasting and adding in a ton of salt until I felt it was good enough to put into a bowl. In some versions of the recipe, I read that people added red wine and, at the end, a splash of balsamic, so I figured at this point I’d bastardized the poor recipe enough I might as well go the Full Monty and do both.

(Caramelized goodness)

I also sliced up a baguette and shredded a bit of Swiss cheese. Now, I really had wanted to use Gruyere, but my Safeway only offered a $17 hunk of the stuff, and I did NOT feel like spending that much. You know what I did feel like spending? $3.78 on some Swiss. See? Beggars can’t be choosers, you know. And, it was still good, so don’t shake your head at me and give me that look.

After toasting the cheese on bread in the oven and putting them on top of the soup, the whole thing looked so warm and inviting that I just wanted to hug the bowl close and tell it that I thought it quite a lovely companion on such a windy evening. But my French pretty much stops at bonjour! And au revoir and fromage because cheese is so good, it’s worth knowing how to say in multiple languages.

At this point, Erjona had come home and fixed a pretty radical salad. I poured us both a glass of wine, we caught up on the day, and chatted about our pending move (more on that fun event next time!)

The soup was warm, sweet from the onions, salty, with a hint of winter around it, and the bread and cheese combo on top made it pretty delish. I kind of want to try a version with Chicken rather than Beef stock, but that’s neither here nor there because I have Onion Soup A.D.D. and always want to try a better version of it. However, if anyone has a legit French friend that I can borrow and squeeze recipes out of, let me know. I can woo them with cheese, wine, and the promise of free soup.

But you know what? Maybe February isn’t so bad...especially when you have a few onions, good music, a cozy kitchen and your best friend to ward off chilly nights and fickle weather fronts. Even so, I wouldn't be displeased to have Spring show up a few weeks early (and don't be surprised if my good-weather-mojo-onion soup evening works its magic and we get some warm weather in the next week...)

Next up? No idea. Like I said, we're moving in a week and, as is the case with such events, small details like feeding ourselves come secondary to hauling big and heavy things up and down stairs. I'll let you know, though.

1 comment:

Erin said...

I'm sitting at work salivating over this dish. Time to hurry home and dream up something slightly similar!