Monday, March 10, 2014
Meatless Monday: French onion soup and gruyere croutons
We're part time vegetarians in our house, mostly because I do the menu plans for the week and, given the choice (and a husband who was less of a meatlover), I'd give up meat entirely. So every other day is meat-free for us, but I've wanted to link up to Meatless Monday for a while.
I'm generally a fan of thick, comfort-laden soups, rather than brothy ones, but every now and then the urge takes me for something just like this: French onion soup with big chunky gruyere covered croutons. Here's how I make ours:
1. Start melting a tablespoon of butter and a little glug of olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan on a low-medium heat.
2. Slice a metric crap tonne of brown onions (or eschallots if you're a complete masochist). I find around a kilo or a kilo and a half works for us. Add these into the pan. Stir gently but constantly to make sure all the onions are coated and they're not catching.
3. Keeping an eye on the onions, pick off the leaves from a handful of fresh thyme and finely slice about half a dozen cloves of garlic. Add these to the pan with a bay leaf. Keep stirring.
4. The trick to this soup is to cook the onion slowly, slowly. I tend to stand over the pan with a wooden spoon in one hand and stir mindlessly while checking all manner of social media on my phone with the other. Also mindlessly.
5. After about 15-20 minutes, turn the heat up a little and start to get a little bit of colour on the onion. Not a lot, and you still need to be carefully they don't catch and burn, but this helps really develop the flavour and sweetness of the onion.
6. After another 15-20 minutes, add a dash of white wine or a fancy French booze of some kind (just not red). Some like cognac. Let it cook off a little of the alcohol's edge, then add about a litre of beef stock. I use Massel's beef-style stock powder, so this still counts as meatless. A good homemade vegie stock would be okay but you'd need to fiddle with your seasonings to make sure you get the same depth of flavour.
7. Simmer the soup for another 20 minutes, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to skim off any buttery fat floating on the surface. I didn't but there really wasn't a heap to skim anyway. Fancy folk add a dash of cognac just before serving but, you know... not fancy here.
8. In the last 5-10 minutes, cut up large slices of some crusty bread, add shaved or grated gruyere cheese, and stick under the grill.
9. Ladel out into bowls and float the cheesy croutons on the top. Or that's what normally happens. With a toddler, I have to hide the crusty bread or he won't even try to eat anything else. Bit bread obsessed, that one. Just like his mama.
10. If you're like me and get the guilts if there's no green in your meal, please note that I've lined my own bowl above with baby spinach leaves. This is a total aberration to the spirit of the soup, I get that, but if you don't stir it in, you still get the full onion soup experience and you can eat a mouthful of wilted spinach at the end. Dear Boy's bowl featured as little of the melted onion as possible, carrots that were wafted briefly near a steamer and some of his favourite corn kernels (we get Aldi's organic variety), and was topped with some roasted pumpkin seeds and walnuts to give him a bit of crunch and protein. His bowl wasn't pretty, but I'm willing to serve him ugly if it means he'll eat it.
Will you go meat-free today? Do you serve up seriously ugly food to your own kids?