Who’s the fairest of them all? : French Onion Soup

I picked up some gorgeously white onions from Huber’s not too long ago and decided to turn them into soup yesterday using my favourite French Onion recipe courtesy of the gorgeous Anthony Bourdain.

White on White.

When I sliced into the babies, their delicate, translucent flesh just made me wanna cry – simply because they were that beautiful. I did end up crying when I got chopping though, but I braved through it and managed to reach the final line without collapsing into a heaving, sobbing pile.

And I’m almost embarrassed to reveal that that is the hardest bit done. The soup itself is real simple – it just requires a fair amount of patience…

Waitaminute… Patience?! You?!

Yes, yes. I hear you. And yes, I admit, about three batches of this soup ago, I was still one of those panicky sorts who will guard my cast iron pot vigilantly, stirring it frequently to keep it from burning – the result of being raised by a mom who is a master in Chinese Food and a health freak. “Cannot let it burnnn. Aiyahhh… Burnt! Cancer! Don’t eat the black bits! Don’t eat the skin!”

So yes, I became the girl who checks her chicken too early and too frequently and it’s still raw on the inside… The girl who serves her best friend lamb chops that are as good as freshly carved from the animal (Bestie ate it dutifully, which is why me loves ‘im.).

I used to stand by my onions, stirring so they didn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. They did brown. But it took a good 3 (?) hours? Maybe more? I know that my legs hurt at the end of the ordeal.

Until one day, I forgot about the french onion soup I was cooking.

Yeeeeppp… I was exhausted that day, and I believe that was after a torturous gym session. And I had to make it for someone or some occasion when I really wasn’t feeling it, but I did it anyway. And I forgot. I went to the living room and read a book and passed out for about 30 fantastic minutes.


What? What did I forget…? What did I f… SOUP! *@&^#(-ing SOUP! 

I ‘sh*tsh*tsh*t’-ed my way to the kitchen and to my relief, the pot hadn’t melted over my stove, and the onions weren’t black.

The onions were dark brown and smelled sweet. The bottom of the pan may have looked ‘burnt’. But I had miraculously (and finally) stumbled upon the concept of deglazing (and having something to deglaze for that matter).

So there you go – slowly let the onions wilt over a gentle flame (Don’t fry them!), don’t fret if the pan gets brown and you think you’ve burnt the onions (though browning is good, blackening is not good), and just wait it out.

And in all seriousness, no napping on the job.

On hindsight, I really should have pickled some and turn them into absolutely clear slivers of delights. Oohhh… just thinking about that sends shivers down my spine. (Slivers of Shivers?) Because after this, the pristine fairness of the onions will slowly fade away into some seriously intense goodness.

And yes, I forgot to take pictures of the amazing deglaze, so just take my word for it. It was amazing. And instantaneously gratifying.

I haven’t deviated from the original recipe too much, but I did a bit of nipping and tucking with the amount of ingredients.

So here, in metric measurements for 4 servings, The Modified Les Halles French Onion Soup.

50g butter
4 large onions, thinly sliced
30 ml Choya (or any other sweet liquor)
30 ml balsamic vinegar
1 litre beef stock (If you find this too salty, you can always use a  7:3 stock-to-water ratio. Chicken stock works too.)
4 slices bacon, cubed
1 bouquet garni

1. In a large pot, heat the butter over medium heat until it is melted and begins to brown. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until they are soft, evenly and intensely browned (between 30-40 minutes). DO NOT NAP!

2. Increase the heat to medium high and stir in the Choya and the vinegar, scraping all that brown goodness from the bottom of the pot into the liquid. Add the beef stock.

3. Add the bacon and the bouquet garni, and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce to a simmer, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, skimming any foam off the top with a ladle. Remove the bouquet garni.


Some extras…

#1: Instead of using string to tie up my bouquet garni, I find it much much better to use this tea bag (from Daiso, $2 for 110 pieces). You can fish everything out in a swoop at the end of it, and you’ll never have to worry about the herbs breaking apart and their leaves falling out.

#2: Instead of port wine as indicated in the original recipe, I used Japanese Choya – which gives the soup a warm, sweet, plummy flavour.

#3: Beef stock. Definitely. Beef Stock. It just smells meatier and looks richer.

#4: Do refer back to the original link for the crouton and cheese option – I usually skip this step. But it’s a greatttt chance to whip out that blow torch. ;)

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