talks about French onion soup — it comes to mind unbidden on cold
winter nights, or in the middle of a bad case of the flu — but almost
nobody does anything about it. My sister Lee is a notable exception.
One day after much wheedling and outright begging I got her to pass
along her recipe, modified from a rule in The Joy Of Cooking with her
own refinements. She would not actually send me the recipe, thus
committing it to writing, but gave it over the phone while I took
Then I did something about it.
make this soup you first slice up three moderately large brown onions,
as thinly as possible — don't chop the slices up. (Now is the time for
your tears.) Put three quarters of a stick of butter into a big pot
that can hold six cups of liquor, plus the onions, and melt it.
as my sister explained, in hushed tones, a terrifying game of chicken
with the onions begins. Your goal is to sauté them slowly, patiently in
the butter until they turn a dark, a very dark brown. When they have
turned the darkest brown possible they will be just seconds away from
burning and turning black — at which point all your slicing, all your
tears, will have been in vain. The onions will try to fool you, by
leaving black deposits on the side of the pot, so you will think they
are as brown as they can possibly get — but they aren't. Not yet — not
quite yet! Bonne chance, mon vieux!
the onions are browned to perfection, remove them from the heat and add
into the pot six cups of beef broth. Beef broth can be over-salty,
especially the cubed kind, so it's good to use a mixture of low-sodium
broth with the regular stuff. I used two cans of low sodium and one of
regular broth. Grind some fresh pepper into the pot.
Simmer this slowly for about half an hour, adding a dash of sherry at the very last moment if you want.
serve, place the soup in an oven-safe bowl. Take thickish slices from a
baguette of French bread, toast them lightly and then float them on top
of the soup, grate Gruyère generously over the surface of all this and
bake it in the oven until the cheese melts.
with a strong, simple red wine and feel the flu, the chill of the
night, the melancholy of the day recede. Rejoice in the fact that, by
following this recipe, you will have plenty of soup left for the days
and nights ahead, when it will only taste better.