Sofrito & Base Veggies
ONION SOUP (SOUPE A L'OIGNON)
The more basic the soup, the more critical the details: Slice the onions uniformly and brown them very slowly and evenly;
slice the bread a half inch thick and dry it completely in the oven; and serve the soup in appropriately sized bowls so that
the melted cheese extends over the rim. When you hit it right, there's nothing more satisfying to cook or to eat than this
soup. It's worth reiterating the importance of cooking the onions slowly so that the natural sugars caramelize rather than
brown through high-heat sautéing. The onions cook for about five hours and need to be stirred often, but they can be made
up to two days ahead. The soup is best if refrigerated for a day or two so that the flavors of the onions and beef broth
can deepen. Comté is traditionally the cheese of choice, but Emmentaler works as well. Gruyère is a bit strong. Use an
aged cheese; a younger cheese would just melt and wouldn't form a crust.
Makes 6 servings
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For the Sachet
2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
6 large thyme sprigs
For the Soup
8 large yellow onions
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3 1/2 quarts beef stock
Freshly ground black pepper
Sherry wine vinegar
For the Croutons
1 baguette (about 2 1/2 inches in diameter)
Extra virgin olive oil
6 to 12 slices (1/8 inch thick) aged Comté or Emmentaler cheese (at least 4 inches square)
1 1/2 cups grated aged Comté or Emmentaler cheese, or a combination
|For the sachet: Cut a piece of cheesecloth about 7 inches square. Place the bay leaves, peppercorns,
and thyme in the center, bring up the edges, and tie with kitchen twine to form a sachet.
|For the soup: Cut off the tops and bottoms of the onions, then cut the onions lengthwise in half.
Remove the peels and tough outer layers. Cut a V wedge in each one to remove the core and pull out any solid, flat pieces
of onion running up from the core.
|Lay an onion half cut side down on a cutting board with the root end toward you. Note that there are lines on the
outside of the onion. Cutting on the lines (with the grain) rather than against them will help the onions soften. Holding
the knife on an angle, almost parallel to the board, cut the onion lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Once you've cut
past the center of the onion, the knife angle will become awkward: Flip the onion onto its side, toward the knife, and finish
slicing it, again along the grain. Separate the slices of onion, trimming away any root sections that are still attached and
holding the slices together. Repeat with the remaining onions. (You should have about 7 quarts of onions.)
|Melt the butter in a large heavy stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and 1 tablespoon salt, place a diffuser
under the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring every 15 minutes and regulating the heat to keep the mixture
bubbling gently, for about 1 hour, or until the onions have wilted and released a lot of liquid. At this point, you can
turn up the heat slightly to reduce the liquid, but it is important to continue to cook the onions slowly to develop the
maximum flavor and keep them from scorching. Continue to stir the onions every 15 minutes, being sure to scrape the bottom
and get into the corners of the pot, for about 4 hours more, or until the onions are caramelized throughout and a rich deep
brown. Keep a closer eye on the onions toward the end of cooking when the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat. (You
will need 1 1/2 cups of onions for the soup; reserve any extra for another use. The onions can be made up to 2 days ahead and
|Transfer the caramelized onions to a 5-quart pot (if they've been refrigerated, reheat until hot). Sift in the flour
and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the beef stock and sachet, bring to a simmer, and simmer
for about 1 hour, or until the liquid is reduced to 2 1/2 quarts. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and a few drops of
vinegar. Remove from the heat.
|For the croutons: Preheat the broiler. Cut twelve 3/8-inch-thick slices from the baguette (reserve
the remainder for another use) and place on a baking sheet. Brush the bread lightly on both sides with olive oil and
sprinkle lightly with salt. Place under the broiler and toast the first side until golden brown, then turn and brown
the second side. Set aside and leave the broiler on.
|To complete: Return the soup to a simmer. Place six flameproof soup tureens, with about 1 1/2 cups
capacity, on a baking sheet to catch any spills (the soup will bubble up and over the tureens). Add the hot soup to the
tureens, filling them to within 1/2 inch of the tops. Top each serving with 2 croutons: Lay them on the surface—
do not push them into the soup. Lay the slices of cheese over the croutons so that the cheese overlaps the
edges of the tureens by about 1/2 inch. Scatter the grated cheese over the sliced cheese, filling in areas where the
sliced cheese is thinner, or it may melt into the soup rather than forming a crust. Place the tureens under the broiler
for a few minutes, until the cheese bubbles, browns, and forms a thick crust. Eat carefully; the soup will be very hot.
Excerpted from BOUCHON copyright © 2004 Thomas Keller.
Reprinted with the permission of Workman Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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