Monday, September 26, 2011

Cooking and Eating Marathon with the Girls - French Onion Soup

Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to teach some of my friends how to cook. I love cooking and eating, as you know, but I also enjoy teaching others how to cook. Although I do most of the cooking, it’s important that they watch how everything is done before they try it themselves. By watching Mom cook and bake, I learned how to cook and bake.

When my friends and I were deciding what to make, I realized that I don’t cook outside my comfort zone enough. I admit that my heart began to race when someone suggested that we make fish. I was up for the adventure, but I haven’t cooked with fish other than that time my family made coquille St-Jacque at home.

Before we got together, it was decided that we’d make french onion soup from scratch. I suggested that we do a Parisian inspired dinner and it took off from there. Watching Tony Bourdain’s adventures pays off after all!

While grocery shopping, DG told me about having maple syrup glazed brie with crackers at an office party. We didn’t want to get maple syrup because it was expensive. We just needed something sweet to go with the salty and soft double cream brie cheese. DG made a great choice and picked up a small jar of raspberry jam.


We were a tad generous with the raspberry jam. The warm brie cheese went really well with the sweet and slightly tart raspberry jam. Ace Bakery’s white baguette, which we enjoyed with the brie and jam was also really good.

While sipping a french red wine and munching on raspberry jam, warm brie, warm baguette, sweet and crisp red grapes, I worked on slicing the three giant Spanish onions for the soup.



In a large pot, I threw in all of the sliced onions with some olive oil, butter, and a few pinches of salt. The olive oil will prevent the butter from burning quickly and the salt will draw out the water from the onions and also season them a bit. I've heard some people add sugar to help caramelize the onions, but I don't think you need to. Spanish onions are really sweet already.

If I would do it again, I’d probably do it in batches or even save a portion of the sliced onions for VN to try to make the soup herself. It’s okay though. I knew that all the onions would cook down to nothing.


The onions were in the pot for over an hour when I decided that I needed to take out all the onion liquids. That made everything much quicker. Soon after I took out the liquids, the onions began to caramelize (aka create fond). I tossed in some thyme and bay leaves before the liquids fully evaporated. At that point, we needed to keep a constant watch over the onions and deglaze the pot constantly.

That brown sticky stuff along the sides and bottom of the pot is what you want. It's called fond. Don't burn the fond or the onions. Keep the onions moving to prevent the onions from burning. Deglaze the pot by using small amounts of broth, wine, or even water and scrape the fond from the sides and bottom of the pot. The liquid you add will evaporate and create more fond. Just keep repeating these two steps until the onions become dark golden in colour.


We deglazed the pot with the onion liquid first and then used half a bottle of white wine (Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay) after all the onion liquid was finished. The alcohol cooked off before two boxes of low sodium beef broth and a can of chicken broth was added to the pot. You can tell when the alcohol has fully evaporated by wafting the steam from the pot to your nose. When the beef and chicken broth was first added in, the beef and chicken broth taste was really strong. The flavours of the onions, herbs, and wine were barely there, but I knew that everything would cook out.

I guess we didn't make the soup from scratch. It's pretty damn close though. Plus, I make stocks and broths all the time!

The pot simmered away on the stove as we worked on the peach crumble. Just like the Ontario peach crumble I made with Lucy, I just eyeballed the amount of flour, oat, brown sugar, and butter.



The peach crumble chilled in the fridge and waited for dessert.

After it simmered for over an hour, all the flavours of the soup began to mingle and compliment one another. The soup was almost ready, so we sliced some more baguette and emmental cheese.




The couple was introduced to the broiler and came out looking like the cheese was bubbling from anger. I wonder what the toaster said to them. We separated the pair from the toaster oven and gave it to the french onion soup. Not long after, the french onion soup softened them up. The hot bowl of french onion soup with the sliced baguette and cheese was so comforting! I hope someone would make me french onion soup in the cold Ottawa winters.

We were already full by this point, but because we had bought ravioli and some desserts, we needed to keep going.


Baked ravioli with parmesan cheese and a slightly spicy tomato sauce. We were trying to mimic an appetizer dish Boston Pizza used to serve (they only serve it as a main pasta dish now). It was pretty close.

You know you’re Asian when you…


…Use a rice scooper to plate up the warm peach crumble with a bit of vanilla ice cream.


The Ontario peaches were actually quite sweet. The temperature contrast between the warm crumble and cold vanilla ice cream was so enjoyable! The vanilla ice cream surprisingly went well with the crumble. It didn’t take anything away from the crumble or peaches at all. I enjoyed the peach crumble a lot more than the last time I made it with Lucy!

To end the marathon night, crème brûlée dropped by and said hello.




These were broiled in the oven and weren’t very enjoyable. The caramelized sugar topping didn’t turn out, although it does look like it was successful in the photo above. The custard tasted very eggy and reminded me of egg tarts. Maybe we’ll try making crème brûlée from scratch next time… maybe not.

Making french onion soup from scratch is time consuming and requires a lot of attention, but your investment will be rewarded with delicious soul warming soup. I had a great time cooking and chatting with friends. I hope they learned something from that evening. We definitely have to do this more often! KM, you have to join us next time. Okay?

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