New Year’s Eve is about remembering years past and looking forward to a new year filled with old and new traditions. While herring and pink Champagne may not be for everyone, they’re part of my New Year’s evening each year. However, my favorite New Year’s Eve tradition is classic French Onion Soup and it’s one you might want to start this holiday. This is the perfect dinner kick-off and ideal for any chilly winter evening.
Onion soup dates back to the Greek and Roman times. You can also find linage of onion soup recipes in old English cookbooks and in early American Colonial cookbooks. There’s even a romantic food storyline that French Onion Soup was conceived by King Louis XV of France. He was visiting his mountain top hunting lodge and had little in his pantry but a pot of butter, onions, and Champagne. And voila, a food sensation was created.
My story is a bit more mid-century. Years ago, Graham Kerr, “The Galloping Gourmet”, was on the old black and white Zenith television one evening, (As a child I was fascinated by his show.) He demonstrated the classic method of making this soup and I looked at my mother with that special look. Then off to the kitchen I went to make my first French Onion Soup. It was wonderful. Over the years I’ve tweaked the recipe and now it’s my go-to soup when the weather chills and a crouton bobbing in thick stock with layers of melted cheese starts calling my name.
I shared this special soup recipe on the PBS program “Ask This Old House”. Host, Kevin O’Connor and his team did a bit of kitchen renovation magic at the Bungalow, and in appreciation we made The Bungalow Chef’s French Onion Soup together!
French Onion Soup
Servings: About 10-12 6 oz. servings
3 Garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4-6 Large yellow onions (6 cups sliced)
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1 Stick unsalted butter
1/4 Cup olive oil
8 oz. Red wine, (Burgundy) and a bit more for the chef to taste along the way
2 Tablespoons flour
8 Cups beef stock
1/2 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 Bay leaf
Sliced Gruèyre or Swiss cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
French bread for croutons, thinly sliced on the bias
Finely minced yellow onion (1 Tablespoon per individual serving)
Cognac (1/2 Tablespoon per individual serving (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Slice the French bread thinly on the bias and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, and add a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese and bake until crisp and golden brown. Reserve for later use.
In a heavy, deep sauté pan, melt the butter using medium heat and add the remaining olive oil, Sauté the garlic until light golden brown, add the sliced onions, and sugar then sauté until transparent and starting to caramelize. Stir often. Add the flour and incorporate well. Cook for another 5 minutes, then add the red wine, and let reduce. Next, add beef stock, bay leaf, thyme, and a few turns of the freshly cracked black pepper. Simmer for 1 hour on low heat. Adjust the final flavor with the addition of salt. This can be made the day before. Or double the recipe for the freezer. Great for a hearty meal anytime.
Using a heat resistant bowls or crocks, add the Cognac (optional), and the finely minced onion. Spoon the hot onion soup into each vessels until it’s about one inch from the top, Add a crouton, top with the Gruyere or Swiss cheese and sprinkle each serving with the remaining Parmesan cheese, Place on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is melted, and bubbling. Using caution with serving due to the cheese and hot broth.
Cheers to the New Year, with great food recipes, new traditions and stories shared.
Stirring up memories, one recipe at a time!
“The Bungalow Chef”