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Old 12-12-2006, 11:38 PM   #1
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ISO Onion Soup Help

firstly, hello to everyone again. I've been really experimenting with different types of cooking styles and such, and I'm really making progress. so, thanks to everyone here who has helped to that end.

ok, so today I did something courageous: I tried to make onion soup.
I really like onion soup, but I cant stand that prepackaged onion-mix stuff (even moreso than my usual disdain for prepared mixes). It tastes so artificial and salty. yuck. so I decided I'd try to make it myself. fresh.

now, I know that I made some mistakes (too much margarine, onions needed a bit more time to fry, and needed another onion or two), but overall it came out OK. except for one thing... its missing that... pizazz. that zestyness. It just tastes a bit bland now, perhaps it's because I didn't use any vegetable or beef stock (I'm on a really tight budget), but I wonder if there's anything else I can do?

anyways, what follows is essentially what I did. All pointers are greatly appreciated (especially spice suggestions):

===============

French Onion Soup - Recipe
French Onion Soup

INGREDIENTS
8 cups onions, sliced in thin crescents
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 to 6 tablespoons butter or oil
5 cups good-quality vegetable stock or water
Tamari or miso to taste
Thickly-sliced toasted country bread (optional garnish)
Grated Gruyere cheese (optional garnish)

1. In a soup pot, heat the butter or oil over medium-high heat and fry ginger and garlic for a couple of minutes. Add onions and stir until heated through.
2. Turn heat down to very low and continue cooking slowly, stirring occasionally, until onions are limp and completely tender, about 30 minutes. Cooking them slowly will give them sweetness.
3. Add vegetable stock and simmer another 30 minutes.
4. Check for seasoning and add tamari or miso, if needed. Serve hot, in individual crocks or bowls, garnished with toasted bread and cheese (melt the cheese briefly under the broiler before serving).

Serves 4 to 6.



{I used water and not stock; I used soy-sauce for tamari -- I don't know if that's really bad. I don't think I've ever had tamari; and I let it cook with a few celery stalks which I removed before serving.}
I used some onion spice and pepper, btw.

===============

also, I noticed that cooking some of the cheese with it beforehand seemed to help. (though the cheese -- I used regular mozarrella -- just made sorta clumps and didn't really cook as how I imagined.)

sooooooooooo anyways, thanks in advance for all your help!
-BoyWithSpoon

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Old 12-12-2006, 11:47 PM   #2
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Stock adds a lot to any soup like this. Onion soup, in particular, benefits a great deal from adding a little sherry.
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:00 AM   #3
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Yes, the water versus stock would make a huge difference. Since money is tight, when you CAN, buy a good quality chicken base and beef base. Some of the cheaper ones are VERY salty. You don't have to use a lot to get a nice smooth flavor. A combination of the two gives a nice smooth flavor. BUT, if I had to choose just one or the other I would use a beef broth. I also use some port and burgundy wine in mine but it's not a must. I buy the cheap port and the cheap burgundy. They will both last a long time and can be used in other dishes. Also, a combination of onions gives a unique flavor. But just yellow or white is good too.

Also, once you have added your base/broth and it's still a little too bland don't be afraid to add a bit of salt. The smoothness of "just the right amount of base" will be there but the salt will flavor it more. This is the recipe I have used for years:

FRENCH ONION SOUP

3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
3 large onions - sliced **see note
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons flour
5 (16-ounce) cans beef broth
2 1/2 cans water (empty broth cans)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup Port wine
3/4 cup Burgundy wine
French bread
Mozzarella, Gruyere or Swiss cheese

In large soup pot, melt the butter with the oil. Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add sugar and flour, cook for 1 minute. Add beef broth, water, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in wines, simmer for 2 hours.

Preheat broiler To Serve: Pour into onion soup crocks. Place a piece of French bread on top. Cover bread with choice of cheese. Place in oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.

***Note - I do use a combination of yellow onion, red onion, and leeks. It makes for a really smooth flavor using all 3 of them. Last time I used 2 yellow, 2 red, and 3 leeks. You can't have too many onions in my opinion! LOL I did make a mistake but only once! I thought it would really be good if it cooked for a long time - NOPE - when I took the top off the onions had all "melted" but the broth sure was good! LOL

Also, do not add more Port or Burgundy than the recipe calls for (I know this from experience too!). It makes the broth too sweet.
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:00 AM   #4
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The recipe below is a version of the classic. Compare it to yours and to get an idea the reasons for your complaints about your version. The classic uses beef broth but a good vegetable stock is a reasonable substitute for vegetarians.


Use butter. I haven't tried it with ginger and soy.

The most important change to make in your recipe is the use of broth in place of the water. Water adds no taste and dilutes all the other flavors. Soy is a reasonable sub for tamari.

Another important step to tasty onion soup is to caramelize the onions. They should be a deep brown in color when you're done. This carameization adds tons of flavor to the soup.



French Onion Soup

6 C Sliced Onions
1 Tb Olive Oil
3 Tb Butter
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tspSugar
3 Tb Flour
8 C Beef Broth
1/2 C White Wine
2 Tb Brandy
1/2 In Slices if French Bread
Olive Oil
8 Oz Gruyere Cheese, Grated

Peel and slice the onions into thin, short slices.

Heat a large pan and add the oil and butter.

Add the onions and cook over low heat, covered, for 15 minutes.

Add the salt and sugar and stir them into the onions. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently. The onions should be a dark golden brown when done.

Sprinkle the flour onto the onions and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.

Combine the liquids and stir them into the onion mixture. Scrape the bottom of the pan to unstick any cooked on food bits. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Spread the slices of bread with olive oil on both sides and toast under the broiler until golden brown.

Ladle the soup into crocks, cover with toasted bread. Divide the cheese among the crocks.

Place the crocks on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler. Broil until the cheese is bubbling.
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:15 AM   #5
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I think the key things for good onion soup are the proper caramelizing of the onions, the richness of the beef stock, and generous portions of gruyere or fontina cheese. If cost is no object, other taste helpers are: white wine, a some apple cider, and a splash of brandy or cognac right before broiling the cheese top.
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Old 12-13-2006, 02:36 AM   #6
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Butter rather than margarine definitely. This is one of those places the difference counts.

Caramelizing the onions for sure.

Good stock for sure as well. (And making your own stock is an inexpensive thing to do, not to mention satisfying. You'd be using all the yummy throw-aways like celery leaves, mushroom skins, chicken bones & necks ... do you need more information? Just shout -- everybody'll come running!)
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Old 12-13-2006, 05:47 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ayrton
Butter rather than margarine definitely. This is one of those places the difference counts.
Ya! The butter will help brown the onions beautifully.
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Old 12-13-2006, 06:16 AM   #8
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When I make onion soup, the first step is cooking those onions long long long and slow. You want to carmelize them to maximize the flavour you get from them. A touch of thyme while they are cooking is a good addition. Add some sherry or marsala before you add the stock. Unfortunatley, without stock, you have onion water. Tight budget aside, that is the last thing you should consider omitting. Even the cheese could be omitted, but not the stock.

I still give you points for even trying. Too many people opt for the envelope.
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Old 12-13-2006, 06:22 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VeraBlue
When I make onion soup, the first step is cooking those onions long long long and slow. You want to carmelize them to maximize the flavour you get from them. A touch of thyme while they are cooking is a good addition. Add some sherry or marsala before you add the stock. Unfortunatley, without stock, you have onion water. Tight budget aside, that is the last thing you should consider omitting. Even the cheese could be omitted, but not the stock.

I still give you points for even trying. Too many people opt for the envelope.
Exactly. Every single point. Well-written post, Vera .
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Old 12-13-2006, 07:12 AM   #10
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Well, like almost everybody else has said, the next step is somehow getting your arms around the stock question. In my experience beef stock is the trickiest because it's hard to even have a conversation about it without folks quoting long dead Frenchmen at you and pretty soon you've either given up or are seriously considering paying $20 a lb. for veal. The first and hardest part is to find a store that sells beef shanks and feet for a reasonable price. It is very likely to be the store with the biggest food stamps sign and the fewest English speaking customers. If you decide to go that route I don't think you'll regret it and I look forward to talking to you about it.
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Old 12-13-2006, 07:27 AM   #11
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I agree with Vera Thyme is essential IMO as is a blade of Mace.
if you`re on a tiny budget why not buy a box of Oxo cubes, they last ages and usefull in sorts of things :)
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Old 12-13-2006, 07:50 AM   #12
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I use chicken "stock" in mine because that is what I always have--and it lends a rich sweetness in my opinion. I sometimes use a dollop of Better than Bouillion Beef flavor for my salt addition, instead of granular salt.
It is easy to get a really good stock by buying a whole chicken, cover with water and simmer it. To get the most from your bird, in your situation,remove it after about 20 minutes and take off the breast meat and use for another purpose (pot pie, tetrazzini, etc.). Simmer the rest for another 45-60 minutes. You will have a rich wonderful stock. OR get leg quarters when they are on sale (often $0.39/lb.) and simmer them.

For serving with your cheese, I like to take baguette slices and top with a very generous amount of Swiss type cheese and put under the broiler to melt. Then float on the soup.
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Old 12-13-2006, 08:58 AM   #13
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Chopstix hit the nail on the head!! Properly, well carmelized onions and the best beef stock you can get your hands on. Homemade maybe! I also use a variety of onions...red, white, yellow. After that...if you like sherry, burgandy, marsala, brandy, by all means...go for it.
VeraBlue is right on target also!!
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Old 12-13-2006, 09:06 AM   #14
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MMmmmmmm, now I'm in the mood for onion soup.......thanks!
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Old 12-13-2006, 10:55 AM   #15
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Wink

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michelemarie
MMmmmmmm, now I'm in the mood for onion soup.......thanks!
Me too -yum !!
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Old 12-13-2006, 12:24 PM   #16
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Everyone has had very good suggestions. The recipe you are using is sorta weird. I'd suggest using Andy's or something close to it.

I know that sometimes it's hard to cook on a budget, but you really do need to use stock and carmelize your onions to a deep golden hue for the soup to have any depth of flavor.
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Old 12-13-2006, 01:33 PM   #17
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BoyWithASpoon - do yourself a favor & try to find a copy of Julia Child's WayTo Cook.

Use her recipe for French Onion Soup & you won't need to experiment with any other recipes. I use chicken broth for mine, but otherwise her recipe is PERFECT, & nothing I've read here so far seems to top it.

Oh, & not to mention you can avoid all the stock nonsense. Good grief - French Onion Soup was & is supposed to be a relatively quick dish - not something that involved multiple steps involving producing all sorts of different stocks, etc., etc. In fact, it was invented as a curative after a hard "drinking" night out in France. These bistros weren't screwing around with veal stock - lol!!!!

I've been using Julia Child's recipe for over 25 years now (subbing chicken broth for beef), & still get raves for it. Do yourself a favor & try it. Faster, tastier, & easier than other onion soup brouhahas.
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Old 12-13-2006, 01:51 PM   #18
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The recipe I posted is one of Julia's with modifications. I've discovered she has published different versions of the same recipe.
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Old 12-13-2006, 01:56 PM   #19
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and you Still can`t beat OXO cubes on a small budget for versatility :)

heh, If I won the Lottery I`de still buy them :P


(and they`de better Pay me this time for saying all that!)
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Old 12-13-2006, 02:41 PM   #20
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Make French onion soup as a labor of love. Start with the bones, add some beef to get a very rich stock.

Then basically follow Julia's recipe, I think, I just make it now without too much thought.

But there was a challange we say in a magazine, and that was to come up with a quick version.

We tried a number of recipes, ate a lot of soup, and came up with this. We think it is pretty OK given the 30 minute time restriction (and then a family member became ill and we could not submit it, but it tastes good anyway.).

Slice thinly 1 Large onion and sauté in 2 Tablespoons of butter (at a minimum) in a 2 QT sauce pan until onions are soft and are starting to get browned, about 20 minutes. Yes, let them get a bit browned and caramelized.

Add one teaspoon of sugar (you can cheat a bit here, a little bit more won’t hurt.) and 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme (to taste).

Add 1 Can of either condensed French Onion Soup or 1 Can Condensed Beef Bouillon (Campbells).

Dilute Soup or Bouillon with one can of low sodium chicken broth. The low sodium here is important because everything else that has been added is very salty.

Slowly simmer for about 5 minutes.

Transfer soup mixture to oven proof soup bowls.

Add several large garlic (or other flavored) croutons to the soup bowls.

Place 1/4 cup of shredded Emmenthaler/or Gruyere or/Swiss cheese on top of the floating croutons.

Place in 350 degree oven until cheese melts.

DO NOT USE PRE-SHREDDED CHEESE - It will not melt properly as they add chemicals (anti-caking) that prevents the cheese from sticking together.


Just our quick approach.



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