Posted by Stephanie Meyer on Mar 18, 2006 at 10:53am

Just have to a say a quick good morning to Cooper (what else is a blog for if not for posting cute pics of Cooper??? That’s Stacey, taking in the cuteness of his full little lips…)

After my heavy shepherd’s pie/beer/soda bread dinner last night – whew, I am still full – I’m thinking a light, brothy soup is in order for dinner this evening. With a veggie first course, not sure yet what it will be. I’ll think about it for a bit and check back in. I wish I’d thought it through yesterday, so I could have picked up a few more things while I was at the store, but I wasn’t that organized this week. I do usually create a meal plan for the week and map out at least a few dishes so I’m not at the store every damn day. The shepherd’s pie idea was impulsive, however, and I made the mistake of shopping just for that. So…I’m quite sure I’m taking another trip down the aisle(s of Byerly’s) today. Anyone need anything?

Here’s another picture I took yesterday, he is a little squeaker, isn’t he? I got some good shots, the sunlight streaming in the windows was truly lovely…

Enhanced by all that snow, I suppose. Hmmph. I’m still not going to like the snow. I like being a bitch sometimes, it’s my legacy, and I claim it. I’ve spent my whole life trying to be a nice girl and you know what? Turns out it’s not always such a good idea, you get taken for granted and taken advantage of, not always, but sometimes, and I’ve decided that sometimes is too often. You also get damn mad about it, understandably. So, once again, all things in moderation are good – including being nice. Hello, 40! Hello, half-way through my life! Hello, being judged isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be! Hello, freedom!

Well, whew, pardon the cry for freedom, back to more Saturday concerns. Time for me to hang a bit with Johnny. And oh, I apologize for my blog being inaccessible or doing weird things (double posts, broken links, etc.). Blogger is having some sort of problem with one of its servers, clearly the one that my blog is on, and even this morning it’s partially unresolved. It’s been days! Irritating! And sorry!

OK. Onion soup, that’s what we’re having for dinner. Definitely some substance, what with the cheese and crouton (it’s worth noting, there’s no need to overdo the cheese, it can be quite moderate), but brothy and lovely under it. We’ll figure out some kill wine to partner. And a first course of sauteed baby carrots and fennel, with dill. (I’m somewhat inspired by the Barbara Kafka interview I heard on MPR this a.m., marvelous woman, chatting about her new vegetable cookbook, Vegetable Love– which I am all over – while she prepared and talked up baby carrots. Great quote/paraphrase: she shared that women approach her and say, but my kids just don’t like vegetables, to which she says something along the lines of, “Then my dear, you should learn how to cook.” Force of a woman, a charming bitch, as it were, perhaps that’s why I’m in the mood I’m in…heh, heh, heh…) So, back to onion soup. I usually prepare a pretty simple version, to rave reviews by John, but today I’m doing a Thomas Keller a la Bouchon cookbook version. What he has to say about onion soup, it’s pretty fabulous. I’ll post it in comments, since it’s lengthy, but if you’re interested in such things, check it out.

I may be learning a lesson in moderation just this afternoon. This Bouchon onion soup? I’ve perhaps bitten off more than I can chew, so to speak. Slicing 8 lbs. of onions wasn’t so bad (because I sliced “only” 5.5 lbs., or one bag of large yellow onions). But cooking them for a total of about, oh, 6 hours will be! Someone didn’t read through the recipe very carefully… Shit. At 5:15 p.m., I’m 45 minutes into the 1 hour pre-saute. I’m then to crank the heat a bit and saute them for 4 hours until caramelized. Add stock or water and simmer for another hour. That means we’ll eat at…10:30 p.m. Right. Time to innovate a bit, and borrow some techniques from my quicker recipe, like putting a lid on the onions to speed up the caramelization. I’ll see where that gets me and check back.

OMG, hilarious, it’s 8:11 p.m. and we just ate – I had to cut it short. So I didn’t caramelize the onions as much as I should have. And I have no idea – frankly – why the recipe calls for 8 lbs. of onions, thank goodness I only did 5.5 lbs. And that was way too much, since the recipe calls for only 1.5 cups of caramelized onions at the end (they cook down a lot, but not that much). It just didn’t work for me in so many ways, given what can be done MUCH more easily with the Julia Child Mastering the Art of French Cooking recipe, which uses 1.5 lbs. and takes a total of 2 hours. Sigh. Oh well, it wasn’t a lot of work, really, just a lot of time. (I’ll save you the headache and post the Julia Child recipe in comments, below; it’s delicious.)

And, oh, by the way, I prepared the baby carrots, fennel – sliced julienne – and added (dried, reconstituted) chopped morel mushrooms. Chopped fresh herbs (didn’t do dill, since I still had chervil and tarragon in the fridge), little Hope Creamery butter after steaming them. Unbelievably good. We sort of snacked on them while waiting for the monster of all onion soup gratinees to be ready. In the end: all delicious, and healthy, and worth the effort, since it’s Saturday.

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Older Comments

  1. By Stephanie on March 18, 2006 at 9:21PM

    You're not kidding that soup was a bitch - oy is right! I'm ready for bed!

  2. By Stephanie on March 18, 2006 at 8:58PM

    Onion Soup
    Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
    Serves 6

    1 ½ lbs. or about 5 c. of thinly sliced yellow onions
    3 Tbsp. butter
    1 Tbsp. oil
    1 tsp. salt
    ¼ tsp. sugar
    3 Tbsp. flour
    1 tsp. dried thyme
    2 quarts beef stock or canned beef broth
    ½ c. dry white wine
    salt and pepper to taste
    12-16 slices of baguette, ½” thick, brushed lightly with oil and toasted until hard and crisp
    6-12 very thin slices of Emmentaler (aged Swiss) cheese

    Cook the onions slowly with the butter and oil in a covered, heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to low-moderate, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep, golden brown (be careful not to burn them). Sprinkle in the flour and thyme and stir for 3 minutes. Stir in the beef stock. Add the wine, and season to taste. Simmer partially covered for 30 minutes more. Correct seasoning. Preheat the broiler, positioning one rack on the second rung from the top of the oven. Ladle hot soup into individual tureens or oven-proof bowls. Float a couple of baguette slices on top of each bowl. Lay slices of cheese on top of bread to cover. Place bowls on a baking sheet and broil, on the second rung down, until cheese is bubbling and staring to brown in spots, less than 2 minutes (watch carefully). Serve immediately.

  3. By Suz on March 18, 2006 at 6:53PM

    You go girl! Say, "hell to the no!" to that overtly Nice Girl!!! Sometimes a woman's just got to be a bitch.

    And that soup sounds like a bitch. OY!

  4. By Stephanie on March 18, 2006 at 1:43PM

    From Bouchon, by Thomas Keller (uh, can you say perfectionist? And yet, two of the most fabulous meals I’ve ever, ever had have been at Thomas Keller restaurants, one at Bouchon, the other at The French Laundry – he is one of the, if not the, finest chefs in the US, and the attention to detail and clear LOVE of cooking and food is readily apparent when you sit down to one of his perfect meals):

    Onion soup is one of the preparations that’s so simple in terms of ingredients and yet so rich – both nutritionally and metaphorically – that eating it feels almost ritualistic. Few dishes are so complete, and therefore so gratifying, in themselves. All the components of a great meal are here – the rich cheese, the bread, the sweet vegetable, the meat broth; it’s soup and sandwich at once. And if you have it on a cold winter day, few things are more soul satisfying. I find that each bowl of onion soup I eat, because I’ve eaten this soup throughout my life, has a way of recalling all the onion soups I’ve ever had.

    I think it’s important that a bistro offer an onion soup gratinee because the dish embodies so much of what we expect from this kind of restaurant – warmth, comfort, and familiarity. At Bouchon, we offer onion soup all year-round because of this expectation, but traditionally, onion soup is cold-weather food. It’s more fun to make when the steamy heat of the kitchen fogs icy windows.

    That certainly is one of the pleasures of onion soup – making it. Slice the onions evenly – they must be uniform so that they caramelize evenly. You don’t want noodles, you don’t want a piece dripping down anyone’s chin; you want the pieces to fit on a spoon, not too wide and not too long, but not so narrow or short that they disintegrate. A nice julienne is what you want.

    Next you must caramelize the onions, and this should take a long time – the process creates the fundamental excellence of an onion soup. You can’t grow impatient and hurry them; you’ll burn them, and the soup will taste bitter. By cooking the onions very slowly, you caramelize the entire julienne, not just the surface. Once you’ve cut your onions correctly and caramelized them just right, uniformly to their center, you’re 75 percent of the way there – you’ve done the most critical of the tasks. Cooking onions well requires dedication – you must stand and stir and watch – and your soup will be better if you enjoy what you’re doing.

    After that, it’s broth and seasoning. The broth can be many things. We use a light beef broth, which is a classic. But you could use vegetable stock for a vegetarian soup, or chicken stock, or even water, depending on how rich or light you want your soup and what you have on hand. Seasoning should be minimal: a little bit of salt, a few drops of vinegar. Nothing should interfere with the sweetness of the onions.

    Try to wait a day before serving the soup – it ages beautifully. Then prepare the croutons and cheese. Traditionally, sliced stale bread is used for croutons. To become a crouton, bread has to be cooked all the way through, in a low oven for a long time, until it’s crusty at its center. It has to be the right size – it needs to float and be big enough to support the cheese – about a half inch thick. It can’t be too big or it will interfere with the soup.

    Use a good Comte or Emmentaler in the correct amount – the last thing you want is too much cheese. At Bouchon, we use slices first, with grated cheese on top of them to ensure uniform melting. You’ve got to leave the dish under the broiler long enough for it to develop that crust on top while the cheese below the surface melts, and the soup has to be really hot to maintain the molten quality in the cheese. There’s a lot going on in onion soup. The richness of the fat, the sweetness of the onions, the satisfying broth, the bread soaked through but with enough body that you need to cut it, and the textures – the molten cheese beneath a crispy crust.