Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mission: Onion Soup

We came home at the same time last night, and after a quick jaunt to a new-to-us local butcher (more about them soon, I'm sure) we dove right into our first proper mission: PDC Onion Soup.

First and formost: BEHOLD! The power of mis! Here's our ingredient depot, with everything ready for abuse. The brown stuff in the pitcher is the pork stock from a few nights ago: note the wonderfully gelatinous texture it has taken on.

Mis en place

So with all of these things ready and in hand, it's time to start the manly (or womanly) work of chopping up some funyons, thin style:

Onion Cuttin'

Even with how good this looks, Jacob was crying by about the halfway point. Luckily our friend Mr. Coppola has a special elixir to deal with such things, so everything turned out fine and ended up in the dutch oven. Low and slow for a couple of hours (really, this part took a little longer than we thought it would - thank goodness for pita and hummus to get us through) and we ended up with this:

Mmm, carmelized

At this point the onions are delightfully sweet and delicious and, we decided, at the right color. So it was time to add in some more components, which brought some protein, some fat, and some aromatic goodness to the party:

More items added

And after a little more time on heat it was time to add in the stock. This was the fun part for both of us, where we got to have an idea of what our soup was going to look like. And like most french onion soups... it doesn't really photo well. But the smell coming up from the pot? Amazing. Pleasing. Super-moo-rific.

MMMmmm?

Some more time on heat for everyone to co-mingle and for us to get settled in for our weekly Top Chef ritual (we're from the Drink Wine and Watch Church of Top Chef, Reformed). And then, after everyone put their utensils down and hands up in the quickfire, it was time to do the finishing work: putting the croûtons on top and cheese on top of it, and then putting the whole thing under the fire. Here it is before:

Ready to be fired

And after:

We present... French Onion Soup!

SUPER DELICIOUS.

As for the success of the dish, we liked it very much. It was different from what we're used to - the broth was definitely improved tremendously by the use of the stock we made. The onions ended up being quite good and the addition of the lardons to the recipe added some interest that we both remarked positively upon. (Though next time, we'll probably cut them a little smaller and remember to remove the skin! Ooops... user error.) Using croûtons instead of slices of bread was a great addition. It made them bite sized and super manageable in the broth - especially for any family members with braces. We loved the cheese - it was subtle, coming through just enough, and really added to the rest of the flavors. We ended up adding a bunch of salt at the end of the process, as advised in the recipe, and found it a welcome boost to what was there.

Some thoughts on the process: other than the length of time it took us to caramelize the onions - an technique that neither of us have really done successfully, until now - we were really pleased with the process aspects of this recipe. It was straightforward and demanded the level of expertise (a little, but not too much) that we thought it would. The next time we make the dish, we will be slightly more heat aggressive with the onions or start the process before, oh, 7:30 on a weeknight when we are both hangry for some yummy soup. (Jacob will probably opt to slice the onions with the cuisinart, or a mandolin, next time as well.)

All told, a successful dish. Perhaps the best part of all was that we both had little balls of warmth and happiness in our bellies for about an hour or so after finishing the meal. Mmm... onion soup.

Note to selves: no more starting long recipes on weeknights!

Time, from mis to eat: 3 hours

Cost of the components of the dish: $24 (excluding things we already had in the pantry), but um, at least half of that was cheese. We subbed a Tomme au Savoie for the Emmenthal cheese ... and would do it again in a heartbeat! "Go big or go home!" is a motto of our household, so we WENT BIG (on the cheese)! Melty and delicious.

What's next:
Lamb Shank Confit (#2)

Blast from the past:
Check out the super-delicious pork stock we made for this dish.

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