Saturday, March 12, 2011

French Accent

My friend Maggie's husband is a great cook. Not only is he a master pit master, 'cuing up mixed grills for his family to munch on all through the week, but he's handy with indoor cooking, too, making a mean pot au feu and a killer pasta with garlic and anchovies. Recently he's been working on the perfect beef broth so he can make Vietnamese pho at home.

When Maggie mentioned that he had some extra beef stock and would I be interested in having some, let's just say she didn't have to ask twice. I had several onions on hand, so pulled out The Cooking of Provincial Francefrom the Time-Life Foods of the World series. The gorgeous hard-bound books my mother ordered (and never looked at) have long since gone, but the small, cardboard-covered recipe books that came with them are treasured resources that I spent hours of my youth poring over.

Many of the recipes in this particular one, I found out years later when reading her biography, were written by Julia Child and reflect her meticulous yet simply stated style. Needless to say, her recipe for French onion soup is not only definitive but totally delicious.

French Onion Soup
Adapted from The Cooking of Provincial Francefrom the Time-Life Foods of the World series

For the soup:
4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced (about 7 cups)
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. flour
2 qts. beef stock or beef and chicken stock, combined
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the croûtes:
4 slices of French bread, cut into one-inch thick slices
2 tsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, cut
1 c. grated Swiss cheese or Swiss and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, combined

In a heavy 4 to 5-quart saucepan or a soup kettle, melt the butter with the oil over moderate heat. Stir in the onions and salt and cook uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 or 30 minutes or until the onions are a rich golden brown. Sprinkle flour over the onions and cook, stirring, for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. In a separate saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer, then stir the hot stock into the onions. Return the soup to low heat and simmer, partially covered, for another 30 or 40 minutes, occasionally skimming off the fat. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper if needed.

While the soup simmers, make the croûtes. Preheat the oven to 325°. Spread the slices of bread in one layer on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. With a pastry brush, lightly coat both sides of each slice with olive oil. Then turn the slices over and bake for another 15 minutes or until the bread is completely dry and lightly browned. Rub each slice with the cut garlic clove and set aside.

To serve, place the croûtes in a large tureen or individual soup bowls and ladle the soup over them. Pass the grated cheese separately.


Sami Scripter said...

Hmmm. My mouth is watering. I have the Russian Time-Life book. Wonderful recipes.

Kathleen Bauer said...

I don't have that one; maybe I'll start looking at garage sales. Got most of mine at Powell's for $6 when they had a better selection of used books.

Ivy said...

That's so funny! I usually hear people say they have the hard bound Time Life series, but can never find the ring-bound recipe booklets! FYI, I have the full set of both, thanks to my brilliant mother in case you need. Soup looks wonderful, and it's good to know there's someone else who loves that series!@

Kathleen Bauer said...

Wow…now that's a priceless heirloom! I lost my beloved Indian cooking booklet from the series (lent it out, probably). Might have to borrow yours and copy it!

jeanie said...

Hey there, these books are among my favorites--just found the Russia volume at the Salvation Army in The Dalles. Beautiful photos, wonderful writing. I've mostly got the HC books, fewer of the recipe books. I'm pretty sure, however that M.F.K. Fisher wrote the Provencal France HC volume--maybe Julia Child wrote Classical French Cooking?