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.
Well, Mlle. Renee heard it raining in the middle of the night and she came into my bedroom and woke me up to ask if she could sleep with me. Since it was the middle of the night, I would have prefered her just jumping into bed. But she’s just too polite. And besides, I had to roll over to make room for her. So I said, “Come on, get in here.” Which she did, and she was back to sleep before I was. Thankfully, she doesn’t snore. I don’t know about me, but she’s never complained. Actually, I was glad she wanted to sleep in the bed, because my feet were starting to get cold and she warms them so well. Since it was very overcast, the house stayed rather gloomy and dark inside and we slept until 9:30. And then I woke up with a CRAVING for an old-fashioned warm apple crumb cake.
Realizing that could take a bit of time and effort, I seached my larder looking for short cuts. And I found this …It was the basics that I needed! I opened the can of Grands Flaky Layers and pressed the five biscuits flatcovering the bottom and sides of a Pyrex pie plate. Then I spread the can of apple pie filling on top. Finally, I placed whole wheat flour, brown sugar, chopped pecans and cinnamon in a small bowl, mixed well and added a tablespoon of butter to make a crumb topping which I spread over the apples. I popped it into a 350 degree oven and baked for 30-minutes.
Sometimes I like to do something that is totally, uniquely and TASTEfully different. I did not feel like cooking tonight for dinner. And since I have never ordered any type of delivery food in my life and wasn’t going to start now, I heated a can of Cream Of Tomato Soup. Yeah, I did doctor it a little by adding milk, butter and dried basil with a sprinkle of shredded parmesan on top. But that was not different at all. I wanted something SPECIAL for dessert!
So, I unwrapped a Decadent Chocolate Nut Biscotti and crumbled it into a bowl and added two scoops of rich French Vanilla Ice Cream.
Nothing goes better than rich chocolate and vanilla combined.
AND WELCOME TO IT!
Considering the weather we’ve been having, it’s really not hard to be under the weather. And Mlle. Renee hasn’t learned how to say, “Aww, poor Robbie, does he have a tolb in his noeb and a fever in his head?”
So I get no sympathy at all around here. Well, that’s not true, because she did let me sleep in until ten this morning. And we also had a nap this afternoon on the sofa. But she couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to go outside and play with her. To humor her I did put on my coat to walk around the grounds and leave some seed for our winged friends. I also noticed that during our recent January thaw a number a plants thought it was spring and began sprouting. Stupid plants if they would have listened to the weather wizards they would have know that we’re headed for a near zero night and first part of the week.
Somehow I really don’t think those sunflower seed shells are going to do much to protect those little sprouts. So after leaving some seed for the birds (and Mr. Squiggly the squirrel), I convince Renee to go inside where it was warm.
Now, I sometimes have a problem with proverbs and old wives’ tales. Probably because I don’t have an old wife to nag me to death by reciting them all the time. So I really didn’t know if it is “Feed a cold, and starve a fever.” or “Starve a cold, and feed a fever.” But since I had both along with this horrific craving for baked goods, I went inside to mess up my recently cleaned oven by baking something.
So I whipped up this crusty cob loaf of bread.
So I whipped up some deep dark double chocolate muffin dough which I spread in shallow pan and topped with dollops of dark chocolate cream cheese and flaked coconut before baking. It baked up into a rich, chocolate confection that resembled a super moist brownie that was to die for.
Then I just heated a can of vegetable beef barley soup for dinner. You have to eat some veggies.
So now I have enough muffins, brownies and whole wheat bread to last for two weeks. Mlle. Renee just reminded me she can’t eat chocolate, and why didn’t I use carob. Poor dog, she doesn’t know the medicinal qualities of real chocolate.