(onions in a pile on top of our beautifully embroidered pillowcase)

I think you are born to like or dislike onions -- not a lot of hedging on the fence with this bulb. I LOVE them, saddening all those who must encounter my breath . . . Raw in salads, diced on top of lentils, caramelized on a sandwich or slice of pizza and in their biggest starring role -- Le French Onion Soup. I first became a fan of this simple and mighty soup in Tahiti, where I took my first-ever grown up vacation with my best girlfriend. I believe this was 8 years ago at this point (holy crap!), but in between our snorkeling and pool-side pomelo-eating, I discovered French Onion soup. I became an addict -- the small island could hardly contain my search for the perfect version. I blissed out on onions while my dining partner worked on beef carpaccio (I was slightly afraid) -- we were the perfect team, a yin and yang of tastes -- I for the bulb, she for le boeuf... Perhaps that's why we get along so well.

Now to bring this issue up to date-- About a month ago, I found myself watching a show on Onion soup in our hotel room in Vietnam and I've been thinking of making this delicious, comforting dish ever since. In our Istanbul pad, we had almost all the tools for getting to it -- except the oven for broiling the crusty/cheezy topping -- but I figured I could fake that part by making little cheese toasts in a pan, not perfect, but definitely still tasty. On a side note, what's with all these "furnished" apartments that come with burners, but no ovens . . . What's Turkish for "harumph?"

Anyway-- this soup turned out pretty well, I might modify it a little on the second round to using vegetable stock and white wine instead of water and a splash of vodka -- that might give it a bit more body. I liked this version though -- the crusty toasts are key to the oniony experience.

One last thing, I have no idea how folks cut up a ton of onions in one session (food processor?) -- I had to wipe my eyes in between each onion, thus ruining my eye makeup for the day . . . A small price for an honest lunch.

Onion Soup
(serves 4-6)
8-10 medium-sized onions, sliced in rings
11 garlic cloves, minced
6 c water
A LOT of salt and pepper
1 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 splash vodka
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter

For cheese toasts:
good loaf of crusty bread, sliced and toasted
1/2 c shredded gruyere or any salty cheese you enjoy (I used a Turkish cheese I don't know the name of and it was divine)

In a large soup pot on medium heat, combine olive oil, butter and onions. Cook on medium for about 10 minutes, until onions have sweated and reduced in size a bit. Turn heat down to low and continue to cook for another 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so -- this step is important, as the onions are caramelizing and that's what gives the soup all the flavor -- don't cheat on this part -- plus, the onion fumes and steam are a great flavor-facial.

Now, deglaze the pot with a splash of vodka (or white wine), add thyme, mustard. garlic, cream cheese, water and lots of salt and pepper. Cover pot and cook another 5-10 minutes. Taste to adjust seasoning.

Meanwhile, prepare cheese toast by broiling each side of bread and adding a little of the salty cheese at last moment. Plunk these on top of the soup and serve with extra cracked pepper.


1 comment:

  1. we have no oven either, tough transition! Soup sounds amazing though!