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Old 09-22-2006, 05:32 PM   #1
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French Onion Soup - My Way

I posted this in another section and was asked to toss it in here (where it belongs). Here is a copy/paste...
Quote:
French Onion Soup - A bistro style soup everyone loves. I played around with alot of recipes, and combined all the qualities/techniques that I felt worked the best. Started with a magazine recipe circa 1980's, added homemade brown chicken stock ala the CIA ProChef, made some modifications after reading Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles book (mainly the bacon & balsamic), and then added a few extras in from various other recipes and my own experimentation. Here is a copy from my digital cookbook I keep so I don't have a zillion pieces of paper in a shoebox.
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French Onion Soup

A perfect soup for cold days - it goes excellent with a smooth red wine and thick piece of beef (great setup for a Chateaubriand amongst two). Slice the onions thinly, and short enough to fit in the bowl of a spoon. Be sure to caramelize the onions to a very deep brown coloration, building a thick fond on the bottom of the pan. The Calvados and port really enhance the flavors of the soup. The sweetness of the balsamic ties everything together. A good brown chicken stock is absolutely essential here, don't skimp with canned stuff or you'll be disappointed. The bacon adds a hint of smokiness, and an underlying essence of pork. Be sure to use real Gruyere cheese, as there is no substitute for that salty/nutty/sweet flavor that melts out and infuses the broth. Mozzarella may have the stringy quality, but it falls on it's face in the flavor department. I use regular yellow onions, as they don't overwhelm the broth with caramelized sugars like Vidalias or Reds.

3-T Butter
4-T Clarified Butter
1.5-oz Bacon (Minced to a Paste)
2-lbs Yellow Onions (Thinly Sliced)
1-fl.oz. Calvados (Fine)
1-fl.oz. Port
1-fl.oz. Balsamic Vinegar
1-qt Brown Chicken Stock
5 Large Cloves Garlic
1-t Black Peppercorns
1 Sprig Fresh Parsley
1 Sprig Fresh Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
8 Baguette Rounds
12-oz Gruyere Cheese
Kosher Salt - To Taste
Freshly Ground Black Pepper - To Taste

Serves 4

Pre-heat the oven to 375*F. Tie one garlic clove (crushed), the peppercorns, fresh herb sprigs, and bay leaf in a piece of washed cheesecloth.

Melt three tablespoons of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook long enough to fully render the fat, then add the sliced onions to the pot and caramelize to a deep brown color. De-glaze with the Calvados, port, and vinegar. Add the stock, and cheesecloth sachet. Bring to a simmer and cook, reducing slightly, for 30-45 minutes.

While simmering the soup, crush the remaining 4 cloves of garlic and add to a small saucier with the clarified butter. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce to medium-low and cook until the raw garlic gives way to a nutty golden-brown color and scent. Brush the baguette rounds on both sides with the garlic butter, and bake in the oven until golden-brown and thoroughly crisp. Remove the croutons and allow them to cool on a ventilated wire rack. Position the oven rack to the highest possible position, and turn the broiler on.

When the soup is ready, ladle 6-8-oz into each crock, top with two croutons, cover generously with the sliced Gruyere (allowing plenty to hang over the edges), and broil until the cheese is melted and mottled black. If the broiler is not powerful enough to brown the cheese, a handheld torch can be used after the cheese has melted in the oven.
The soup and croutons can be prepared a day ahead. It actually tastes even better if allowed to work it's mojo overnight. Then the next day you can whip out bowl after bowl like nuthin'.

~ Nick

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Old 09-22-2006, 05:37 PM   #2
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Bienvenue, Nick. You've provided another iteration of one of my favorite soups. thanks!
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Old 09-22-2006, 08:23 PM   #3
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Thanks Nick... your contribution is much appreciated
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Old 09-22-2006, 08:51 PM   #4
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Nick, the first time I read this in your other post, I was impressed. Reading it again, I am hungry!
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Old 09-22-2006, 09:06 PM   #5
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I will give a time for caramelizing onions for onion soup. anything less than an hour for the onions by themselves will result in an inadequate soup.
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Old 09-23-2006, 08:42 AM   #6
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Gretchen - Definetly. Developing that deep brown caramelization is surely one of the most important steps. Not only is it the flavor base, but it also lends color and defines the texture of the onions. Nothing worse than crunchy/bland undercooked onions in FOS...

I didn't list a time though, because it depends on pan shape/size, how much soup people are making, shape/size of the onion slices, and how long they've been losing moisture in the pantry. I slice my onions very thin, often making a 1/2 batch in a 3qt saucier. I can achieve the proper camarelization in about 35-45min over medium/medium-low heat.
-----
I suppose I should include the brown chicken stock recipe I use for people who want to make this and have never made brown chicken stock. My recipe is almost an exact copy of the CIA's, but I like a bigger sachet with more garlic, herbs, and spices along with a bit more bones for a higher concentration of gelatin and flavor. It's really easy to do on a day where you plan to be home for 6-7hrs or so. I usually spend one day every couple months where I clean my apartment and replenish my freezer stash. I go through chicken and brown chicken stock like crazy. In the end it's actually cheaper to make than buy, and the quality is 10x better. Make a gallon and seperate it into eight 2-Cup containers that will stack in the back corner of the freezer. I try to keep a gallon each of Brown Veal Stock, Chicken Stock, Brown Chicken Stock, and Fish Stock. It takes up about 1/4 of my freezer along one wall. Stocks really do make the difference between a good dish and a fantastic dish. This is a classic western stock, but the aromatics really aren't that strong. You can easily infuse things like ginger or lemongrass for sotheast asian cuisines. Of course if you only make one, make the standard chicken stock which is basically the following recipe minus the roasting steps and tomato paste. Oh, and any kitchen worth it's mustard has a couple stock pots. I use disc-bottomed 22qt jobbers from Walmart which ran me about $40ea or so. Notice I said two, as straining into 6 different pots after really stinks! (the 22qt size allows you to make a double batch if you plan on lots of cooking, like around the holidays). You can also use the pots for pasta, canning, or large preparations of foods for parties/get togethers. I use mine on portable outdoor burners for steaming sweet corn at BBQ's and stuff too.

Anyhoo, here it is...
Quote:
Brown Chicken Stock

Brown chicken stock is used for hearty poultry or vegetable based dishes. Stripped down, it's essential components (like all good stocks) are clean water (filtered if necessary, but not distilled), bones/joints, aromatics, herbs and spices. It's essential that high quality ingredients are used, as the flavors derived are subsequently reduced and condensed which will magnify any shortcuts taken. The mouth-feel of a good stock is created by collagen in the connective tissues breaking down into gelatin. Browning the bones and aromatics not only brings color, but makes use of the Maillard and Caramelization reactions to increase flavor complexity and depth. It's important that sufficient browning is reached, but care must be taken not to burn anything. Burnt items create a bitter flavor in the stock which is unpleasant and gets worse as the stock is reduced. Some flavors and aromatics are volatile, and care must be taken not to boil them away. Boiling is bad not just for flavor, but also decreases the clarity of the final product. Frequent skimming is also necessary to remove foam and scum which will reduce the stock's quality if left to break down and suspend itself. Stock should be started cold and cooked at a bare simmer. Cooking time begins once the stock reaches a bare simmer.

10-lbs Chicken Bones (or Wings/Drumsticks)
Canola Oil
4-qt + 2-C Water
1 Large Onion - Diced
2 Medium Carrots - Diced
2 Stalks Celery - Diced
6-oz Tomato Paste
2 Medium Cloves Garlic - Crushed
1-t Black Peppercorns
3 Sprigs Fresh Parsley
3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme
2 Bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 425*F and heat a large heavy roasting pan filmed with canola Oil. Add the chicken bones and roast until evenly browned, turning as needed - roughly one hour. Remove the chicken to a large stock pot, and add the water to cover. De-glaze the roasting pan with some water, and add to the stock pot. Bring the chicken to a a bare simmer over medium heat and then reduce the temperature to maintain the bare simmer as necessary. If the water level falls below the level of the chicken, heat some water in a separate sauce pan and gently replenish some of the lost water. Do not completely replenish the lost water, as the stock eventually needs to reduce to 1-gal.

Three and a half hours into simmering, film a skillet with canola oil and add the mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery). Saute over medium-high heat until the onions are caramelized. Add the tomato paste to the pan and stir constantly until it turns a golden brown and smells sweet. De-glaze the pan with a few ladles of stock, and then add the mixture to the stock pot along with the remaining ingredients.

After the stock has simmered for five hours, carefully strain it with a chinois or cheesecloth and measure the final volume - the target is 1-gal (4-qts). If the volume is short, add enough water to reach 4-qts. If the volume is large, return the strained stock to a simmer, and reduce until 4-qts is achieved. Chill the stock, and then degrease once the fat has stratified and turned solid.
I usually degrease by using a 4-C sized OXO separator. This saves lots of time. Chill the stock before hitting the fridge by placing the pot (nice n' tall comes in handy here) in your sink and filling it up with cold water. Empty a tray of ice cubes in too if you want (the sink, not the stock). Swirl the water in the sink with your hand every 10min or so until it cools. You can also drain/refill with more cold water. I usually wash them out in my bathtub afterwords which is much easier than maneuvering them around the faucet with my kitchen sink. It sounds like a lot of work, but it's incredibly easy once you do it a couple times. Once you figure out the exact setting on your stove that produces that light-simmer, it just works it's magic by itself.

Oh, notice there is zero salt... you want this. Some recipes call for stock reductions, or have lots of salty ingredients already (such as many south-east asian dishes). You can always add, but taking out is tough.

Sorry for being long-winded. I just feel that without stocks a kitchen is seriously handicapped in what it can produce on the fly.
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Old 09-23-2006, 08:48 AM   #7
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Lots of really good information. A new restaurant near us makes very good onion soup except the bread is in the bottom and I'd much rather have mine just under the cheese (a little like a piece of cheese toast on top).
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Old 09-23-2006, 09:02 AM   #8
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I agree licia. I like how the bread becomes partly saturated with the broth, and partly saturated with the oils from the melted cheese. It's also why I like two croutons!

EDIT: A lot of restaurant onion soups use very poor "stock" made from a concentrated salty base. A good stock that has been reduced a bit in a proper onion soup has a noticeable viscosity to it that allows the croutons to float. Sometimes the broths in restaurant onions soups are simply too watery, and the crouton sinks after a second or two. I also like plenty of onions in mine, not the brown water with some shavings on the bottom of the crock.
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Old 09-23-2006, 10:42 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicholas Mosher
Chill the stock before hitting the fridge by placing the pot (nice n' tall comes in handy here) in your sink and filling it up with cold water. Empty a tray of ice cubes in too if you want (the sink, not the stock). Swirl the water in the sink with your hand every 10min or so until it cools. You can also drain/refill with more cold water.
I have found that if youre making a lot of broth that needs to be cooled rapidly, its good to freeze some 8 oz or 16 oz water bottles (filled w water of course!) beforehand that can be used to stir the stock when cooling and can be dropped in the stock to help cooling from the inside
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Old 09-23-2006, 10:59 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seven S
I have found that if youre making a lot of broth that needs to be cooled rapidly, its good to freeze some 8 oz or 16 oz water bottles (filled w water of course!) beforehand that can be used to stir the stock when cooling and can be dropped in the stock to help cooling from the inside
What a GREAT idea!
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