THE ORIGINAL FAMOUS & BARR FRENCH ONION SOUP RECIPE
Well, it has reached that time of year when your kitchen window will greet you with a very gloomy and chilly morning view. The kind of day when you long to eat something that will not only warm you up, but also cuddle your tummy. Here in the Wicket City we once had such at dish. It was the French Onion Soup served in the restaurants in the Famous & Barr Department Stores. It was a Saint Louis tradition that originated in the 50s or 60s when it was created by a Swiss chef the department store had hired to oversee the operation of their restaurants. The recipe was first printed in the food section of the Post-Dispatch and I clipped it out and added it to my recipe file.
For new-comers or visitors to the Wicket City — the Famous & Barr Department Stores are a thing of the past. They are all Macy’s stores now, and in-store restaurants have all vanished. Damn those food courts. But never fear, I’m going to share my copy of the original recipe. Be forewarned, it does take a little effort to make the soup — nut the fantastic taste makes it well worth it. Also, the recipe has never been cut down, so you’re going to end up with about four quarts of soup or 16 servings. The soup does freeze very well, and it’s always nice to be able to grab a bowl out of the freezer on a cold winter day.
First, about five hours of time and a six-quart or larger stock pot
5 pounds unpeeled onions (I go with yellow)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika (Sweet Hungarian is my choice)
1 bay leaf
14 cups (almost four 32 oz cartons) beef broth (low sodium if desired)
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup flour
Brown Gravy Sauce or Kitchen Bouquet (for coloring)
2 teaspoons salt
Crusty French bread
Gruyère or just plain Swiss cheese
Peel onions, cut in half and slice into 1/8 inch thick slices.
Melt the stick of butter in the stockpot. Add the sliced onions and saute uncovered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours. Let the aroma fill the kitchen — the smell is wondrous and will make you drool. Remember to stir every so often, because as the onions soften and begin to brown you wouldn’t want them burning to the bottom of the pot. There’s a reason for the long cooking time — you’re cooking the vital essence out of the onions, and bringing out all that is sweet and tasty within them.
Add the pepper, paprika and bay leaf and continue to cook over a low heat while stirring frequently for 10 minutes more.
Add 12 cups of the beef broth and the cup of white wine. Hold the other two cups of broth for the next step. You can also pause for a glass of wine for yourself. You deserve it for all the effort you’ve put in so far. Increase heat until the soup comes to a boil.
Now dissolve the 3/4 cup of flour in two cups of broth you held back. When fully dissolved, pour into boiling soup while stirring.
Reduce heat and simmer slowly for two hours more.
If your onions browned correctly, the soup should be a rich brown color. If it isn’t don’t worry — you can use a bit of Brown Gravy Sauce or Kitchen Bouquet to adjust the color of your soup. But go easy on the Kitchen Bouquet because too much can change the taste of your soup.
Now is the time to taste your soup for salt. Go sparingly on the salt, because we really don’t need as much salt as we think we do.
If you made the soup the day before, refrigerate over night.
When you’re ready to serve, reheat the soup. Pour individual servings into ovenproof bowls. Top each bowl with a toasted slice of the crusty French bread. Sprinkle grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese on the bread. Heat under the broiler until the cheese melts and bubbles, about 5 minutes.
Now enjoy your soup, or better yet invite your friends over and share … you’ve got enough soup for 16 of them!
And if you’re one of those people who can’t boil water or you’re in a hurry, Trader Joe’s offers a passable frozen French Onion soup you can throw in the microwave. Don’t expect the to-die-for flavor of the soup you cook from scratch.
Posted on November 30, 2014, in MY WORLD AND WELCOME TO IT!, Uncategorized and tagged cold winter days, cooking, Famous-Barr French Onion Soup, French Onion Soup, recipe, The Wicket City. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.