French(ish) onion soup, no tears, some lies, some remedies.

If it´s cold and blustery and you have lots of onions to use, and the only other things in the house are a rather old hunk of Manchego cheese and a slightly passé mollete(bread), what do you do? French onion soup. Of course.
The problem is that a proper onion soup takes forever, what with the slicing and the browning and the many hours that go into good beef stock.
Then I remembered a Nigel Slater recipe I´d read in his Kitchen Diaries: onion soup without tears. Nigel chirpily halves some onions, dots them with butter, roasts them to goldeness and in they go into the pot. A gloriously dark comforting soup is achieved in less than no time, and with vegetable stock. Wow.
Can such things be? I don´t think so, my friend.
Well, maybe I´m just incompetent. Or maybe Nigel was bending the truth a little. Or lying in his teeth, even.
Whichever it was, my onions, after double the time N said, and even though I´d shaken them about a few times, were black on one side, white on the other. Cooked through, sure, and the house smelt like a French bistro (which it still does, by the way) but they didn´t look even remotely like the sort of brown limp mess you expect to begin a soup with.
Since my stock options were half a litre of great home made chicken stock, and a litre of Aneto low salt chicken stock, which is a tad on the bland side, and interestingly pale, I´d clearly need something else in the way of kick and colour.
Gallina Blanca has the nerve to sell an ersatz beef stock that contains 0,1% beef extract, water, 0,1% beef, caramel and flavourings, and yet tastes slightly beefy. So Bovril and caramel seemed like a good idea, as long as I upped the percentages.
I cut up the big onion wedges with a pair of scissors, which certainly beats the tearful chopping. Then I started with the cheater´s ingredients.
First, the wine. If the wine is dark, all the better. Red is a possibility, but I opted for Pedro Ximénez, because I wanted to finish off a bottle and because I decided I´d give the whole thing a Spanish twist.
A glug of sherry brandy seemed like an excellent idea, and while the alcohol burnt off, J and I had a tug of war with the caramel bottle. By the time we had it open, it was time for the stocks, a good spoonful of dark caramel and a teaspoonful of Bovril.
Twenty minutes of brisk simmering and, magic, the thing really resembled a good old onion soup.
The mollete was toasted, the manchego was grated, the bowls went under the grill and the whole thing was perfectly beautiful.
The next time I´ll cook my onions on the stove, or I might even, if really really lazy, use a couple of tins of Hida cooked onions. With that, and the doctoring of the stock, we´re talking some seriously decadent practically instant comfort food.
Now that´s a real soup without tears, and it works, too.

13 comentarios:

xps dijo...

Ay que fresquísimaaaa! pero suena ideal.

ChichaJo dijo...

That sounds like it hit the spot! :) Some of the best things to eat are created from grabbing this and that in the kitchen because we didn't have what the original recipe called for :)

Hanna Takala dijo...

Kitchen Diaries has been waiting me for a while now.. maybe I really really should get into it.

Anónimo dijo...

Muy creativa tu receta, no has intentado hacerla con TMX? Yo uso Cross and Blackwell Gravy Browning para dar color a mis guisos.
Fantástico tu dibujo. Inés

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) dijo...

Sounds like you rescued what was a poorly conceived (or maybe just poorly edited) recipe. I find that slicing the onions with the shredding disk in the food processor makes quick work of it when I need a lot for soup.

La Tartine Gourmande dijo...

I wonder when the beret symbol will ever fade away! ;-) Ahaha, it all looks great, and tasty.

Saikat dijo...

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Anónimo dijo...

First off, I find your blog incredibly beautiful to look at, and I have been lurking around, reading and smiling at the illustrations. As for the ersatz onion soup - my husband loves it, and I don't make it precisely because I end up reeking of onions, tears streaming down my face, exhausted and annoyed. I think your method sounds better, and I intend to try it. I also think I'd like Manchego better than the traditional options. Thanks!!

Mary Coleman dijo...

I've always made the Julia Child version, but I think I'll use manchego to switch things up a bit.
Great idea!

Anónimo dijo...

I like your use of manchego instead of the more traditional cheese!

Anónimo dijo...

That was a flash of inspiration with the Bovril and caramel!

Pille dijo...

I know that recipe - somebody praised it a lot, and as I've got the book, I was keen to try it. Mmmm. Maybe only when I've got a jar of Marmite on hand (that's my "up the beefiness" secret;)
PS Thank you for everything!!!

Anónimo dijo...

almost heresy i must say hehe!


here's one.. my take on a quickie