Sunday, January 16, 2011

If Life Gives You Onions...

Barry and I both really like French onion soup, but since we started cutting the salt and fat in our diet we haven't been ordering it in restaurants.  Most of them use too much salt and the blanket of cheese draped over the top, while tasty, really ups the fat and calorie count.  In addition, melting the cheese under a broiler can heat the soup bowl to volcanic temperatures, so the diner can easily burn his or her tongue or fingers.  For a while we were eating canned low-sodium onion soup but it didn't have much taste; others must have thought so, too, because the local stores have stopped carrying it.  So, here is how I've been making our own onion soup.  It relies on slow cooking and good ingredients for flavor, so don't try to rush it or use cheap, tasteless Swiss cheese.  This recipe makes two appetizer-sized servings but can easily be doubled or quadrupled.

Caramelized Onion Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil (butter if you don't like the taste of olive oil)
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cups low-sodium beef broth or bouillon
2 tablespoons dry red wine
1/2 teaspoon brandy
1/8 teaspoon thyme
Pepper and (if absolutely necessary) salt to taste
2 thin slices French or Italian bread
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup shredded Jarlsberg or Gruyere cheese

Cook the onion in the oil or butter over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until it first turns translucent and then starts to turn golden brown.  This should take about 20-30 minutes to develop the best flavor.  Then add the broth, wine, brandy and thyme; simmer gently for another 20-30 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about 1/3.  Taste after 10 minutes or so and add the pepper and optional salt.

While the soup is finishing up, toast the two slices of bread.  Cut the garlic in half lengthwise and rub the surface of each slice of toast with one of the half cloves.  Place the toast on a microwavable plate.  Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the grated cheese evenly on each piece of the toast.  Microwave on high for 15-20 seconds until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Ladle the soup into two bowls and float a slice of cheesy toast on each.

"I think that women just have a primeval instinct to make soup, which they will try to foist on anybody who looks like a likely candidate. " ~Dylan Moran

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