Monday, January 14, 2013

Soup Days

Most Southerners that I know are not great fans of cold weather. Even when the thermometers flirt with the freezing point, people tend to rush home in their oversized coats and pile blankets on the bed as if they have just landed in the Arctic.
I must admit, I am not much different from this common scenario. While I love the chilly air in early autumn, freezing days in January like today do not feel quite as welcoming. The leaves have all dropped off the ancient trees, their colors that at one time had created a vibrant tapestry of orange and persimmon, have now become a matted rug of brown, soaked with cold, drizzling rain.
Instead of rushing home from my daily errands and changing into a thick sweater, I started to hunger for warm soup; specifically, French onion soup. I made a detour to V Richards downtown- a great little market with fresh and local produce, cheeses, a bakery, and an impressive wine selection. Best of all, they bake some of the most authentic French baguettes I have tasted outside of France, and set them upright in old wooden wine crates for their customers to oodle over. I almost felt as if I was back in Grenoble, picking out some fresh Gruyere from behind the glass case, casually carrying the baguette under my arm as I swung the door open to leave. Sigh. Back out into the dreary, leaf-carpeted parking lot. My daydream of France had escaped me momentarily, but soon came rushing back in as my kitchen filled with the scent of the homemade soup simmering on the stove.

Baguettes at V Richards.

I truly believe this soup tastes best on soggy cold days like today. The herbs and red wine in the soup make the entire kitchen smell amazing, and the sliced baguette with bubbling Gruyere add a completely new level of warmth. This recipe makes a large pot-full, and the soup tastes even better the next day (if you can make it last that long!)

Classic French Onion Soup

2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 red onions, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic
1 stick unsalted butter
4 heaping tbsp flour
6 cups good beef stock
1/2 bottle Bordeaux
2 bay leaves
A few sprigs of thyme
1 baguette
Gruyere cheese, grated

Over medium-low heat, cook the onions and garlic in butter until they are soft and start to caramelize, about 30 minutes. Stir in the flour and simmer for another 5 minutes, until the mixture thickens.
Add the stock, wine, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring the soup to a boil and then cover and simmer for at least 1 hour.
A few minutes before serving, turn your broiler on low. Arrange baguette slices on a baking sheet, and grate Gruyere cheese over the tops. Broil until cheese is bubbling, 5-10 minutes.
Ladle big spoonfuls of soup into shallow bowls. Place a slice of baguette on top with a small sprig of thyme. Enjoy with a glass of Bordeaux and snuggle up.

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