Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Paris Blogs & Onion Soup

Moi  in Paris November 2008
at the top of L'Arc de Triomphe

As cliché as it may be and as unexplainable as it is to my family (the one I was born into), I am just totally crazy, complétement folle, about Paris.  My 7th graders will begin researching their Paris monument or museum tomorrow and later make a presentation to their classmates.  I am spending way too much time daydreaming about the trip I will take in March with my fourteen 8th graders to Paris and Arles.  And then, today, Carol of Paris Breakfasts devoted her entire blog to La Tour Eiffel!  The real one, one done in macarons, another in chocolate, multicolored ones... it is all too much for me as I sit behind my desk, in front of my computer.  Through her post today, I now have another one to follow, Peter's Paris-- she put a link to his post about La Tour Eiffel and how La Grande Dame is celebrating her 120th birthday.  (I sense a party coming on...  one must celebrate such a thing, n'est-ce pas?)  Olivier, one of my French friends, just returned to Provence from a trip to Paris with his wife and two young sons.  He did report that the Iron Lady hasn't moved.  They took the elevator to the 2nd floor (the 3rd was closed) and then walked down the stairs.  I made my oldest son walk down with me when he was 10 years old.  Scared him pretty good-- me, too, to tell the truth.  It is just so open...

 She was blue last November (yes, really, Yolanda) to celebrate Nicolas Sarkozy's presidency of the European Union...

I just can't help but go back to last November, just about this time of year.  The now un-ex made his first visit to Paris.  Brand new passport in hand (it is NEVER to late to get this very important document, mes amis), he walked through the doors at Charles de Gaulle airport with a dazed look on his face.  We spent a grand week in Paris, strolling the streets (I did not have to count the heads of 8th graders... what a treat for me!), sipping red wine at cafés, spending all the time we wanted in various museums (I visited the Marmottan for the first time), eating as many bowls of soupe à l'oignon as I could, gazing in wonder at the windows of Galeries Lafayette all done up for Christmas (decorated with pink flamingoes-- animated, at that).  And he finally understood, in some small measure, my obsession with La Ville Lumière.  And he re-proposed at the top of Eiffel Tower.  And I had promised myself that I would marry the first man who did that.  Or remarry, in this case.  We will celebrate that anniversary soon with a nice bottle of champagne and dinner at Rue Cler, a little French restaurant here in Durham, named for one of my favorite streets in Paris.

oops... no before photo, just an after...  It was obviously very good soup!

Anyway, what's not to love about a city that has withstood the test of time?  From the Parisii tribe who settled it, to the Romans, to the German occupation during WWII... 

I found the following recipe on-line from Cooks Illustrated.  I love caramelizing onions because it makes my house smell so good.

The Best French Onion Soup  (check this out-- there are lots of good tips from people who have made this recipe...)

Serves 6

3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 3 pieces
6 large yellow onions (about 4 lbs), halved and cut into slices
2 cups water, plus extra for deglazing
1/2 c. dry sherry
4 c. chicken broth
2 c. beef broth
6 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied with kitchen twine
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
1 small baguette, cut into 1/2 in. slices
8 oz. shredded Gruyère cheese (about 2 1/2 cups)

For the soup:

1.  Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat to 400F.

2.  Generously spray the inside of a heavy-bottomed large (at least 7 quart) Dutch oven with nonstick cooking spray.  Place the butter in the pot and add the onions and 1 tsp. salt.  Place in oven and cook, covered, for 1 hour (the onions will be moist and slightly reduced in volume).  Remove the pot from the oven and stir the onions, scraping the bottom and sides of the pot.  Return the pot to the oven with the lid slightly ajar and continue to cook until the onions are very soft and golden brown (1 1/2 - 1 3/4 hours longer), stirring the onions and scraping the bottom and sides of the pot after an hour.  (Note:  I did this on the stove top,  instead of in the oven.   I think it works just as well.  Just stir the onions from time to time.)

3.  Carefully remove the pot from the oven and place over medium high heat.  Using oven mitts to handle pot, cook onions, stirring frequently and scraping bottom and sides of pot, until the liquid evaporates and the onions brown, 15-20 minutes, reducing the heat to medium if the onions are browning too quickly.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the pot bottom is coated with a dark crust, roughly 6-8 minutes, adjusting the heat as necessary.  Scrape any fond that collects on spoon back into onions.

4.  Stir in 1/4 cup water, scraping the pot bottom to loosen crust and cook until water evaporates and pot bottom has formed another dark crust, 6-8 minutes.  Repeat process of deglazing 2-3 more times, until onions are very dark brown.  Stir in the sherry and cook, stirring frequently, until the sherry evaporates, about 5 minutes.

5.  Stir in the broths, 2 cups of water, thyme, bay leaf and 1/2 tsp. salt, scraping up any final bits of browned crust on bottom and sides of pot.

6. Increase heat to high and bring to simmer.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Remove and discard herbs, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the croutons:
While the soup simmers, arrange the baguette slices in single layer on baking sheet and bake in a 400 F oven until the bread is dry, crisp and golden at the edges, about 10 minutes.  Set aside.

To serve:
Adjust oven rack 6 inches from broiler element and heat broiler.  Set individual broiler-safe crocks on baking sheet and fill each one with about 1 3/4 cups soup.  Top each bowl with 1-2 baguette slices (do not overlap) and sprinkle evenly with cheese.  Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly around the edges, 3-5 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving.  (Note:  if you do not have oven safe crocks, you can place the bread on a baking sheet, top with cheese and place under broiler until cheese melts.  Then, after placing the soup in a bowl, top with the bread and cheese.)

Bon appétit, Paris, la Tour Eiffel and November!


Peter said...

So happy that you found my blog and so happy to have found yours!

You asked if it was OK for a link to my blog and the answer is of course YES!

I hope to hear from you when you visit Paris next time! (... or Arles, where I have family and friends and visit regularly.)

The Sabbatical Chef said...

Thanks so much for the comment! I showed your blog to my students today. I have made Paris fanatics out of a few of them. Bravo!
I will be in Paris and Arles with 14 of them in March. Perhaps we will meet.

Bev1616 said...

Love your blog! So hoping to get to Paris some day! Until then, I'll live vicariously thru others! :)

The Sabbatical Chef said...

It is a magical place. I am so lucky to have been there as many times as I have and to "know" certain parts of it. GO!