By Angela Denstad Stigeler
soup·çon [ soop sáwN ]: n. a suspicion; a suggestion; hence, a very small portion; a taste.
I have a suspicion there are some Francophiles out there who might wish they were a little handier in the kitchen. Here’s a suggestion: come join me next Monday for a special Community Education Thyme Out cooking class, belatedly commemorating the 100th year of Julia Child’s birth, in which we’ll cook and dine—French Chef style—on a five-course feast.
As it will also be my birthday week, we’ll select from among my favorites in Mrs. Child’s repertoire, starting with the classic onion soup, which you’ll find featured below. It is a triumph of culinary technique that elevates the humble onion to the realms of royalty. Fittingly, we’ll end our meal with the Queen of Sheba cake that Julia described as her “all-time favorite.”
So if this soupçon of a course description and the lure of French onion soup intrigue you, come join us in class for a taste—the soup’s on!
Soupe à l’Oignon
(French Onion Soup)
1 ½ pounds (about 5 cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons flour
½ cup dry white wine or white vermouth
2 quarts brown stock or 1 quart canned beef bouillon with 1 quart water
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons cognac (optional)
1 loaf French-style bread, sliced and toasted
1-2 cups grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese
Melt the butter with the oil in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart covered saucepan. Add the onions and cook, covered, over low heat for 15 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to moderate and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently, until the onions have turned an even, deep golden brown. Meanwhile, bring the stock, or bouillon and water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
Add the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the wine is mostly evaporated. Turn the heat off and blend in the boiling broth. Set the soup over low heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30-40 minutes or more, occasionally skimming any impurities from the surface, if necessary.
Just before serving, stir in the cognac, if using, and place slices of toasted bread in a soup tureen or in individual bowls. Ladle the soup over the croûtes (hard-toasted bread) and serve hot, passing the cheese separately.
Alternatively, the croûtes may be topped with cheese and broiled before being added to the soup, or the individual bowls may be topped with the toast and cheese and gratinéed (passed under a hot broiler) before serving.
Recipe adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck