Monday, November 3, 2008

French Onion Soup, and Friends

Once upon a time, a few weeks ago, I made French Onion Soup and forgot to take pictures of the finished product, though I did manage to snap some images of the onion transition from point A, on the left, to point B, on the right.

I'm not really a big fan of French Onion Soup, really, but TheBoy and TheUpstairsNeighbor are, so I thought I'd "sacrifice" for their sake and have a lovely evening with the two of them. Instead, I found a new love for cooked onions and instilled in my loved ones a new respect for my cooking skillz. See the bottom of the post for the remarkably easy recipe.

Alongside newfound respect, this recipe also produced leftovers to feed to TheBoy. Instead of trying to slop soup into a regular bento box, I used a thermal jar (OK, a Campbell's soup thermos that I stole from my mother's pantry) to hold the soup and packed a normally too-small bento accompaniment. I didn't really need to use the thermos for the soup -- I could've used an uninsulated container -- but it was exactly the right size and it's cute, compact, and, best of all, leak-proof. Why didn't I need the thermal capacities? Several reasons:
  • I pack lunches at night and refrigerate all the food for safety. Refrigerating thermoses is both counter-intuitive and not food safe (because the thermos doesn't keep the food hot enough to be safe, but it does insulate it enough from the fridge to keep it from getting cold enough for safety).
  • We don't have a microwave! So, heating up the soup in the morning would've been a challenge of stove-heating soup in a pot while it's still to early to see clearly.
  • TheBoy has microwave access at work and a glass bowl that lives in the cupboard at work for just such occasions that he should have to heat up some lunch.
To accompany this thermos, I sent TheBoy a smallish bento filled with soup-appropriate needs. This bento features some toast to float on the soup, peanuts for added protein, and a tortilla filled with hummus and a lovely assortment of whatever veggies we had on hand (probably sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce). Acting as gap-fillers are a steamed jalapeno (leftover from a taco truck dinner!), a dried mango slice, one mini vegan brownie, and grapes and strawberries. Surprisingly, this lunch ended up as a vegan meal for TheBoy, though it ideally would have contained some cheese to sprinkle on the soup. TheBoy is not at all interested in vegetarianism or veganism, but I sometimes spring lunches like this on him... without any complaints. Overall, a big win and he requested an immediate repeat, though I think he may have to wait until I have the motivation to chop up half-a-dozen onions again.

French Onion Soup Recipe
adapted from Simply Recipes

  • 6 large red onions, peeled and thinly sliced.
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sugar (or just some, like I did)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups of broth (I made vegetable broth using better than bouillon paste)
  • 1/2 cup of white wine (I used white wine that we would drink... so should you!)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Spices (I used Basil and "Italian Seasonings, though the original recipe calls for Thyme and a Bay Leaf... I'm poor and can't afford to by spices just for ocassional use)
  • 8 slices of toasted bread (French bread is canon, but we had wheat on-hand)
  • 1 1/2 cups of grated Mozzarella cheese with a little Parmesan (Gruyere is the standard, but, again, poor! and Mozzarella is fine, anyway)
1. In a large pan, sauté the onions in the olive oil on medium high heat until well browned, but not burned, about 30 minutes. Add the sugar about 10 minutes into the process to help with the carmelization.

2. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add the stock, wine, and spices. Cover partially and simmer until the flavors are well blended, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Ladle the soup into serving bowls (if you have oven-proof bowls, like Corelle, as I have. If not, use an oven-safe casserole dish). Cover with the toast and sprinkle with cheese. Put into the broiler for 10 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6.

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