Friday, February 12, 2010

my French onion soup

Through its history and up until its demise in the 70"s, les HALLES, in the middle of Paris served as the main wholesale market of produce, dairy, meat and fish for Paris and its surrounding area. The word "halles" origin may be from the English:" hall"( or may be it is the other way around...),since it was a huge architectural complex of many halls for the products shipped from all over France.The neighborhood was its own village , with cafes and restaurants opened during" les Halles" odd hours, which were mostly at night until the early morning, catering to all the workers. As a child, I never experienced that world, but it I remember hearing of the tradition for parisians to treck at least once in their life, to one of the open bistrots, and have the hearty ,cheesy onion soup around midnight , on a cold winter night.. in the area what was called then " the belly of Paris".As for me, much later, I dragged significant , on an early date, to one of the few remaining restaurants in the quartier, whose specialty was: breaded pigs feet, which he very daringly tried but that is another story....
So, today, on another winter night ( it is almost spring here, but the nights are always cold), I want to make a rich,fragrant,home transporting, brazenly good soup with just a few ingredients:butter ( it is the french part of the recipe),onions,thyme, broth,gruyere, and bread, that will take me back to a noisy bistrot with paper tablecloth and a red wine carafe and with the natives cheering,loudly as the steaming cheese crusted bowl of soups emerge from the kitchen.

recipe:( for 2-3)

you will need:
4 onions
2tbsp butter
2tbsp thyme
1tbsp brown sugar
1 can organic broth ( vegetable, chicken or beef, the traditional one is with beef)
1 cup water( or more to taste)
1/4 cup of madeira wine
2 slices of bread
1/4 cup grated cheese ( gruyere is preferred)
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

saute your onions rings in the melted butter in a wide pan so that the onions are not too crowded and can brown nicely. sprinkle with the sugar and thyme.keep the heat on low.
occasionally turn them until they get a nice caramel color.( up to 45 minutes)
transfer them to a soup pot and add the broth, water ,wine and let the flavors meld on medium heat for 30 minutes.
toast your bread, rub the slices with the raw garlic clove, and spread the cheese on top. broil to melt.serve the soup, drop the bread on top, scatter some fresh thyme and extra pepper.The bread will get soggy with the hearty juice and you can break it up as you
slurp the soup,