Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
As I flutter through my retirement days looking for a place to land and avoiding getting into a writing project, I find myself doing unexpected things.
Except for Grassroots, old movies and “Downton Abbey” I am not much of a TV watcher, so I was dismayed to realize that in one day I had watched two episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” and one of “Judge Judy” and their concomitant barrage of dreary advertisements directed at slugabeds. Yikes.
My degenerated back and oxygen deprivation preclude exercise, sitting through a movie in a theater, vacuuming (yea!) or walking the puppies, so I’ve been listening to books on CD and doing a lot of cooking.
Last week I decided to try to prepare French onion soup, despite having failed stupendously when I attempted it a few decades ago. This time it was a roaring success, so I hasten to pass it on. The recipe is an amalgam of postings on the Internet.
Cut three large yellow onions lengthwise, peel off the outer skin (go deep), slice into 1/4-inch pieces and cut those pieces in half. I don’t have a Dutch oven, so I used a large Corningware casserole dish.
Set oven to 400 degrees. Melt half a stick of unsalted butter in your dish, add the onions, stir and bake untouched for one hour. I thought for sure the onions would burn up, but they didn’t.
Then, for the next hour and a half, continue to cook the onions with the lid slightly tilted, scraping the bottom and sides of the dish every 15 or 20 minutes until the whole thing is a medium-brown mess. This is the tricky part because the onions are browning quickly.
Remove the dish from the oven. If you’re using a proper dish you can put it directly on the stove burners – I had to transfer my mess into a pot. Now comes the really tricky part. Cook the onions, stirring often and scraping up the gunk forming at the bottom, until the liquid evaporates and the onions are the color of dark brown shoe polish (remember Kiwi?) – 15 minutes or so.
Add 1/4 cup of water and cook and scrape until evaporated, about five minutes. Do this three times. Add half cup of sherry or red wine (I used red), stir and scrape until evaporated. You are now done with the onions!
Stir in two cans each of low-sodium chicken and beef broth (or make your own – I wasn’t all that ambitious), several sprigs of fresh thyme tied with string and a bay leaf.
Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can now freeze it or store it in the fridge for several days or (more likely) eat it at once.
Cut half-inch slices of French bread and bake at 400 degrees until crisp through. Ladle soup into bowls, top with the toast and top the toast with grated Gruyere cheese. Broil for three minutes.
It will be hot, so be careful. It will be delicious.
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