French Onion Soup: A Love Story
Before it's too hot to talk about French onion soup
Now that it's finally starting to warm up, I find myself desperately clinging to the last vestiges of cold weather food. I can't seem to stop roasting and braising, as though 2012 will be our very last winter. Oh wait, it will. Well, at least with anything to braise. I have this whole apocalypse story made up in my head already; I can send it to you if you want. But just for kicks, I have a good cold weather food story, too. It's about French onion soup. But if your cold heart is immune to nostalgia and desires only spring recipes, we have a fava bean roundup for that.
I started my first food blog in 2008 using Blogspot. I don't expect our younger readers to know what that is. The first entry: uni shooters. Good warmup. The second was a panzanella with burrata that was so good we finished the first batch before we could think to photograph it. Amateurs. And the third, and my favorite, was French onion soup. It was my first real experience with step-by-step photo how-tos (which are surprisingly addictive if you're a cook, food writer and/or nerd). And here's why we couldn't eat it.
My good friend Hathanh and I decided to move the photoshoot location from my crazy overcrowded loft to her parents' house in Pasadena, since they weren't home. In the most sincere attempts to open the bottle of Pinot Grigio I'd picked for the soup, we broke first one corkscrew, then another — an heirloom of her mom's. Then we were out of corkscrews. And we were already a little drunk. So, after some "careful planning," we took the party outside, smashed the top of the bottle against the side of the house and caught what we could in a large stockpot. Then we strained out the shards of glass using a dish towel. But we were both too nervous to eat the results after the shoot. Moral of the story: sometimes shit happens during food shoots. Sometimes it's good, like the tuna blob, and sometimes it's bad, like glass in your soup.
The beauty in the dish is in its simplicity: caramelize onions (no, seriously caramelize them), add good beef stock, dry white wine and parsley, and simmer until the cows come home. Toast French bread slices, float them on top of the soup in an ovenproof bowl or crock, cover with grated gruyère and broil. Or if you want to be a show-off (and having just admitted to cooking a mammoth pot of glass soup, I definitely do), you can make a grilled cheese sandwich with gruyère and a thick layer of those caramelized onions, fry it in ample butter until crisp and golden brown, float that on top of the soup, cover it with more gruyère, broil and try not to take a picture and tag us on Instagram. Bet you can't.