Humble beyond words.
But I won’t stop there. Within this simple concoction simmers golden comfort. Caramelized to sweetness, blended with an organic beef stock and crowned with a piece of toasted bread and a slice of Gruyere, then set under the broiler for only a minute or so to allow the cheese to drape and colour with a slight char.
Cut up a larger amount than you think is sane of onions because they cook down quite a bit. Think of how spinach looks going from fresh to cooked.
Onions are one of the most economical veggies on the planet. It’s a food that is readily available to anyone and one of the healthiest for its anti-inflammatory, cancer reducing, antioxidant rich benefits and better consumed several times a week to reap the healthy rewards.
Even slowly cooking the onion in the stock doesn’t deplete nor break down its flavonoid Quercetin but only infuses the liquid with it.
When you’ve got the onions in a soup pot set on medium heat with a couple of good pats of butter and a couple tablespoons of olive oil, let it cook. Don’t disturb the onions too much because you want them to take the heat and begin the caramelization process. But you don’t want them to burn either so keep an eye on things.
This is a fond you can see forming, the good stuff.
I’m fond of Fond. Here you now turn the heat down to low and add in a bit of beef stock to deglaze but only enough to release the fond from the pan there. This is now your job for the next while, to stir gently, to rearrange the onions and add liquid and scraping the bottom of the pot when you see them darkening.
That’ s Darkening- not Burning.
You can toss in some kosher salt and freshly ground pepper but be judicious; following a rule of a little bit now, then a little bit later in the cooking process. This lets the seasoning infuse into the foods as it cooks, deepening the flavors.
Still darkening, and gently stirring and adding a bit more stock- At about this stage I like to add fresh crushed garlic, because caramelized garlic is right up there in sweetness and unctuousness with the onions.
If you want to just have a jar of caramelized onions on hand in your fridge as a condiment for just about everything then you’d stop right here when your onions look like this. Cool them and into a jar. Use on -just too many to list, whatever you put it on it will be elevated. It’s that savory/sweet trick that gives its compatibility.
If it is soup your after then keep on going and add in all your stock and let it simmer for a bit to marry the flavors fully and finally correct the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed~
I toss in a Bay Leaf. I have a Bay tree in my yard and if I could make my bed of Bay leaves I would. There is nothing so sensually fragrant than these fresh and compressed in your hand followed by plunging your face in and breathing deep.
Although I don’t illustrate it here I will often bundle some fresh Thyme with butcher twine and steep it in the final stages of the soup, taking out the bundle when serving.
You can prepare your “crouton” ahead or during the soups simmer. Please don’t just toss a piece of bread on your soup, that just makes a gooey disaster. No, you want to cut a thick piece of baguette, drizzled over with some olive oil and place it on a tray in a 400′ oven for a few minutes till it starts to slightly golden, you can rub a piece of garlic across it then if you like.
When ready ladle the soup into any lovely, preferably deeply cupped bowls then float the crouton on the soup. Next you’ll slice a tongue of Gruyere and place atop the crouton.
Your oven will have been set on broil with rack set just high enough under the broiler to accommodate the bowls set on a baking tray and slide it in.
Watch closely, the cheese needs attention! When it’s bubbled to perfection pull from the oven, set onto a plate lined with a cloth or napkin, pour a glass of red, and if you’re lucky to have a fireplace and a Significant Other that had the forethought to have it lit then homey humble bliss awaits~
There, you’ve got the foundation of comfort; soup, bread and cheese. And wine, but not necessarily in the soup, just to complete the course. Of course.