It finally feels like fall here in Atlanta, and I love it. i love the change of seasons, although they’re saying on the news that it’s just a little unseasonably cooler than it ought to be right now. I don’t mind.
Today I’m wearing a thin fabric scarf loosely wrapped twice around my neck and tied in the back. I thought I looked good, fashionable, with the season. The PM from Chicago flew in this morning, and when he walked through the office door I said, “Hi”, to which he replied, pointing at his neck, “Hi. You trying to hide a hickey?”.
I woke up yesterday morning bright and early, and even though it was so cozy and warm in bed, I hopped out of bed because I had a hankering for some soup. And not just any soup, I wanted French onion soup. I rushed off to the grocery to pick up a few things, and while there I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a hot Croque Monsieur along with a bowl of soup for lunch?”, and I agreed with myself that yes, indeed, I would like that very much, and I knew a couple of boys at home who wouldn’t mind it either.
I normally make French onion soup with red wine, but I didn’t have any of that handy and I couldn’t go out and get some – Georgia laws are ridiculous and backasswards, one cannot buy alcohol on Sunday - so stupid. However, I did have plenty of white on hand, so I had to make some modifications to a recipe I had, and it turned out fine. You can also add a dollop of booze, like Cognac or brandy, before the final simmer, but my Courvoisier bottle is almost empty, and i like to save it for when i get an hankerin' for a good steak au poivre.
French Onion Soup
2 ½ pounds onions (I used a combination of Spanish and sweet), halved and thinly sliced into half moons
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups beef stock (preferably your own)
1 cups water
1 teaspoon black pepper
grated or sliced Swiss cheese
grated parmesan cheese
Put butter and oil in a large Dutch oven, and turn heat to medium; once melted, add the onions, thyme, bay leaves, brown sugar, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are caramelized (this step will take close to an hour). Turn the heat down if the onions start to burn. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add flour and cook for 1 minute while stirring with a wooden spoon. Add wine and cook for 2 minutes, stirring and scraping up any yummy brown bits on the bottom. Add stock, water, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning (you might need more salt).
Slice your baguette on the diagonal into thick rounds and toast them (you’ll need enough rounds to cover the tops of ovenproof soup bowls, so figure out how many rounds you’ll need based on that).
Turn broiler on. Ladle hot soup into ovenproof bowls, top with a baguette round, some grated Swiss and parmesan, and put under the broiler. Keep an eye on this so that it doesn’t brown too much, it should take a couple of minutes (don’t walk away). Carefully remove bowls from broiler and let sit for a minute before digging in. The cheese will be piping hot and you might be unfairly rewarded with a huge blister on the roof of your mouth if you get greedy and dig in too early.
I used the Croque Monsieur recipe from Barefoot in Paris, recipe which can be found here . Since Gruyère can be a bit on the pricey side sometimes, I used mostly Swiss, with some Conté that I already had on hand leftover from a Costco run a while back. These are definitely a knife-and-fork kind of sandwich, as cheese will ooze out all over the place in a very pleasant sort of way.
I thought that this might be a cheese overkill kind of lunch, what with the gobs of it in the sandwich and béchamel, but how often do I eat this way? It was the perfect meal to welcome the first good autumn weekend we’ve had.