March 1, 2006

french onion soup

The mercury dropped again this week after a few messy weeks in the mid-thirties. Unseasonably warm weather in Alaska isn’t fun – all that freezes must eventually melt, and it makes a white, lovely landscape grey and dirty. So this week when it started getting well zero after a good snow, the cold was welcome. Last night it was already below zero when I got home from work, and we needed hot and gooey comfort food. I’m not sure what it is about some eats that make us crave them at different times, but I know that certain situations call for certain food. The first night out of the woods after five or six days on the trail demands a hamburger and fries, preferably kept company by good beer. A hard night climbing at the gym requires a particular pizza, and cold and gloomy February nights deserve something hot and crusty. With cheese, and extra cheese if your name is Tricia. My mother calls it onion gratinee, and I just call it FOS – French onion soup.

3-4 medium yellow onions, rough chopped
3 tbs butter
2 tbs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
6 cups beef broth
1 cup white wine
6 slices swiss cheese
1/2 cup grated gruyere
4 thick slices of crusty bread
ground pepper to taste

Heat the butter over medium heat til it foams, and add the onion. Toss with butter and season with pepper. Slowly, slowly caramelize the onions, stirring often. You can build OK french onion soup cooking the onions quickly, but for really good FOS you have to go slow. The slower the better – an hour or so would be just alright, and longer would be better. Add the wine, bring up the heat and reduce for 5 minutes or so. Mix the flour in and cook for a minute or so. Add the broth, bay leaf, and thyme, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and toast a bit while the soup is on. Put a slice of Swiss into the bottom of a couple of oven-safe bowls or crocks. Ladle in the soup, and top each crock with the toasted bread. Cover each with Swiss, and sprinkle Gruyere over the top. Set under a broiler for 5 minutes or until the cheese is brown and bubbly.

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