recipe: French Onion Soup

30 Sep

I loooove French onion soup. I think it’s one of the most amazing and decadent dishes, and it’s pretty good for you! (At least, it can be.)

Since part of its appeal is the toasted bread and melted cheese on top, balancing tradition and taste with the nutritional profile of this soup depends on choosing those parts wisely. I like to use homemade bread: my favorites for this recipe are the Whole Wheat French Bread from the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book or the Master Recipe artisan bread from Healthy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. You can use any good bread, of course, but a whole-grain variety makes this meal a healthier choice.

As for the cheese, again you have choices. A white cheese with good melting properties is the traditional choice–provolone, usually, or mozzarella. I recommend a naturally lower-fat cheese, not a reduced-fat variety of a kind that is usually higher in fat, because the reduced-fat types often don’t cook as well. My personal favorite here is the nontraditional “queso blanco”–a Mexican cheese that doesn’t melt, exactly, but toasts, rather like Greek halloumi. (I get queso blanco at Costco–it’s easy to find.)

One final suggestion: while you can make this very easily with packaged broth, I love to make this the day after I roast something–a pot roast, a chicken, a pork shoulder, whatever. Adding in the pan juices from the roast makes this delicious instead of just really good. Just stick the juices in the fridge overnight; scoop out any fat that hardens on top; and add the juices to the broth when you pour in the broth.

ingredients:
* 5-6 cups thinly sliced onions (4-5 medium onions)
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 6-8 cups beef broth (liquid broth is better, but if you use bouillon cubes, use only about 3 cubes; they’re very salty)
* dash of Worcestershire sauce
* pepper to taste
* sliced bread
* slices of cheese

Cook the onions in the olive oil until they’re very soft. When they’re very soft and beginning to brown, pour in the broth. Add the Worcestershire sauce.

If you are ambitious, you can wait and add the bread and cheese to the bowls on top of the soup and then broil the bowls. That always seems like a lot of hassle to me. So, instead, I recommend this: while the soup is simmering, slice your bread and cheese. Top each slice of bread with cheese and pop them in the oven until the bread is toasty and the cheese is melty.

To serve, check the seasoning and add some pepper if you think the soup needs it. Then place a slice of bread and cheese in each bowl and ladle the soup over the top. Not as beautiful as the kind that’s broiled in a crock, but a lot easier (bowls sliding around on a cookie sheet scare me) and just as delicious!

This is a very quick meal–maybe 15 minutes from slicing the onions to the table. If you’re vegetarian, this makes an excellent supper if you use veggie broth instead of beef broth and leave out the Worcestershire. A slightly different meal, but still really good.

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