When I was an only child, I often was out and about with my parents and their friends. I listened to their secrets and laughter, taking mental notes. I stayed up late and drank Shirley Temples with extra cherries. I noshed on fried calamari, chicken teriyaki, potato skins and melty, salty French onion soup. I sat sunken in oversized red booths and drew or solved the puzzles on paper place mats. I wore patent leather Mary Janes and carried a miniature purse. I was Eloise playing outside the Plaza or Drew Barrymore without cocaine. Sometimes, I stood up to tap dance, then I went back to going unnoticed, stealthily gleaning grown-up ways.
To this day, I love French onion soup and dancing in unscuffed fancy shoes. This homemade version is a thousand times better than the dishwater batches so often served in casual restaurants. The only drawback in crafting your own bowl of decadence, is knowing exactly how much melted cheese is going in. I dare you not to let it phase you, heap it on and bask in the fat and nostalgia and happiness of a simple supper on one of the first chilly nights of the year.
French Onion Soup Au Gratin
Adapted from a recipe by Julia Child
- 4 tablespoons (half a stick) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 lbs yellow onions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 2 heaping tablespoons flour
- 8 cups beef stock
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup brandy
- black pepper
- 8 1-inch thick slices French bread, toasted
- heaping 1/2 cup of Swiss cheese
In a large Dutch oven, heat butter and olive oil, then add the onions. Cook covered on low for fifteen minutes. Increase the heat, incorporate salt and sugar, cook down and caramelize the onions for thirty minutes, stirring frequently. Add the flour and stir for three minutes, then pour in wine and slowly, the stock, then brandy. Season with black peppr. Increase heat, simmer thirty minutes, pot half covered. On a baking sheet lined with foil, place two oven-safe crocks. Sprinkle a little cheese and grated, raw onion in the bottom of the bowls, then ladle in the soup, layer with four bread pieces, and cover with cheese. Broil on low until bubbly and brown, five minutes.
I meant to make a green salad, but ran out of the wherewithal; instead I popped a container of cherry tomatoes on the table, and called it dinner.