My Parisian Kitchen: French Onion Soup

Chase Away  the Winter Chills--and The Vampires, Too

It's a grey, rainy and cold winter day--alright, so it's really 55 degrees outside, but this is California and it really is raining, which by my accounting makes for a cold day.

It's almost noon and I've spent the morning drinking coffee and writing and I have no intentions of changing out of my pajamas until early afternoon and then, only to put on party clothes and head out for a holiday dinner. There doesn't seem to be much of a point in eating a regular lunch and since I've already breakfasted on a few slivers of brie and wild blueberry jam, I've been channeling my inner Parisian spirit all morning, so why not roll with it?

When most people think about French food, they think of those elaborate buttery pastries or fancy dishes, but pick up any French cookbook and thumb through the recipes and you'll quickly realize that it's a fairly simple cuisine that makes use of what's in season.

One of my favorite winter meals is a big bowl of French onion soup covered with shredded Comtè or Gruyère cheese and put under the broiler until melted, then served with a hunk of bread, a glass of wine, and maybe a cold sliced pear for dessert. The best part of making French onion soup is that it's prepped and on the stove in less than 15 minutes and can simmer away, unattended, while you practice intriguing French phrases or lie about on the sofa listening to the rain fall.

Mel's French Onion Soup

4 to 5 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
Vermouth (white)
Chicken stock
2 Bay leaves
Fresh ground pepper
Sea salt (flakes)
Grated Comtè or Gruyère cheese

1. Melt the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy stock pot until just beginning to sizzle.
2. Toss in the onions and garlic and cook over a very low flame until soft and golden brown and beginning to caramelize.
3. Add in enough white Vermouth to deglaze the pan and cook until evaporated.
4. Add enough chicken stock to fully cover the onions by about 2 inches.
5. Toss in the bay leaves; cover, but leave the lid ajar.
6. Simmer for several hours or until the aroma is driving you mad; season with salt and pepper to taste.
7. Ladle into bowls and top with shredded Comtè or Gruyère cheese and place under the broiler until melted.
8. Serve with hunks of crusty bread and a glass of wine.


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