Grandma Knows Best: French Onion Soup au Gratin

Some days are longer than other. As the sun passes through the sky, I feel as though its speed falters. We arrived in Mazatlan just in time for New Year’s Eve. After a long night of sailing, we pulled into El Cid Marina Resort. So let’s be real, this place is more resort than marina. Although, it is a very nice resort, a retiree’s paradise complete with bingo and water aerobics. I was absolutely exhausted. Just as I was about to lie down for a nap, the loud speakers near the hotel began to blast inspirational upbeat pop music. I’m sorry, but there is only so much Journey one girl can take in a lifetime. The music blasted so loudly that I couldn’t sleep a wink. Well, I could wink, but I was looking for much more than a wink of sleep. Instead, I powered on through the day. For dinner, I whipped up Chicharones Peruvianas with black beans. We played Settlers of Catan and watched an episode of Game of Thrones Season One (Mark has never seen Game of Thrones, which is an abysmal reality that needed to be rectified). After our evening of tranquil festivities, we found ourselves in bed by 8:30pm. Happy New Years!

After out wild night of raucous festivities, I rose to a bright and beautiful day. But something felt off. Nothing I did felt right. The truth was I didn’t realize how intensely homesick I have become. I miss Craig, my adorable loving boyfriend who occasionally annoys me. I miss Jay, my drink genius friend. I miss Rocio, my recently engaged gal pal. I miss Justin, my pain in the ass brother. Ugh… I was like totally bummed out. I officially missed all of the winter holiday. I mean, I didn’t miss them, but it’s not the same.

When I was twelve, I lived in Curitiba, Brazil. While my parents struggled through a midlife crisis that brought us there in the first place, I faced my own struggles. Pulled from middle school and thrown into a Brazilian school, I couldn’t seem to pick up Portuguese fast enough. However, I could have applied myself more, but Portuguese isn’t exactly an easy language. In fear of being held back a year, I decided to return to the states instead to 7th grade in the fall. Only thing , I returned to the states before the rest of my family. As a result, I spent the first six months of the 7th grade living with my Grandma Sharon in Olympia, Washington. It wasn’t exactly an easy time for me. For the first time, I was separated from my mother and father. I had just moved yet again to an entirely new location. Not to mention, I was that totally weird kid that had just moved there from Brazil and was living with my elderly Grandma. I was picked on. I got into fights. I got suspended for repeatedly punch my bully in the face (she totally deserved it). It was not easy.

Thank god for Grandma. She always knew just how to cheer me up. I was having a lot of trouble making friends, so I read a lot. Every time I finished one book, she’d take me to Barnes and Noble to pick out some new adventure to carry me away from my present circumstance. I’d go to Barnes and Noble and find new friends jumping from the pages. When that didn’t work out, she’d make my favorite dish EVER, Julia Child’s French Onion Soup au Gratin. Nothing on this earth can turn my frown upside down the same way this soup can (Sorry, Craig, but at least now you know how to cheer me up). So to anyone feeling down in the dumps, short on their luck, like they’ve been drawing the short end of the stick, I have your solution.

For the sake of everyone’s happiness, I will provide the traditional, vegetarian and vegan alternatives.

Julia Child’s French Onion Soup au Gratin

 

2 tbsp butter

1 tbsp cooking oil

2 lbs yellow onions, thinly sliced

½ tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp flour

4 tbsp cognac, optional

1 c dry white wine, I’d recommend a Chardonnay

6 c beef stock

1 bay leaf

½ tsp ground sage

Salt and Pepper, for seasoning

8 slices of French bread, cut one inch thick and toasted

12 oz Gruyere, grated

4 oz Parmesan, grated

Get out your dutch oven and if you don’t have one, get out a heavy bottom stock pot and place it over medium heat. Add the cooking oil and the butter to the pot. Allow the butter to melt and bubble slightly. Add the onions and stir to ensure they are evenly coated in the oil. Reduce to low heat. Cover and cook for 20 minutes (I’d recommend one hour) stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Cook until they become very tender and translucent. (Then, I would also recommend cooking the onions for another thirty minutes uncovered.) Then increase heat to a medium high heat. Add the sugar, salt and sage. Continue to cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until the onions are properly browned.

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Once the onions are caramelized, reduce heat to medium low and add the flour to the onions. Brown the flour for about 2-3 minutes, but don’t burn the everliving hell out of it. Drizzle the cognac over the onions and light that puppy on fire (never a real puppy that would be cruel and evidence of your sociopathic nature). The onions will flambé for only a moment. Keep the lid close by in case you need to put the fire out. By the way, the cognac is totally optional. Please don’t try to flambé your onions while underway on a passage. I feel that it is a bad idea.

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Once the fire is out, add the wine. Stir up those onions to properly deglaze the pan. Then add the stock and bay leaf to the pot. Simmer for 30-60 minutes. Add some salt and pepper to season the soup to your taste.

In each individual’s big bowl, pour in some soup. In a separate bowl, combine the two cheeses. Then top the soup with the toasted sliced of bread and the cheese mixture. Quickly cover each bowl with foil. The steamy heat of the soup will melt the cheese over the delicious onion soaked French bread. Et voilá, I give you happiness in a bowl. Bon appétit.

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Vegetarian/Vegan Alternatives French Onion Soup au Gratin

3 tbsp cooking oil

2 lbs yellow onions, thinly sliced

½ tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp flour

4 tbsp cognac, optional

1 c dry white wine, I’d recommend a Chardonnay

6 c vegetable stock, preferably homemade

1 bay leaf

½ tsp ground sage

Salt and Pepper, for seasoning

8 slices of French bread, cut one inch thick and toasted

12 oz Gruyere, grated

4 oz Parmesan, grated

For for vegans you can use soy cheese or no cheese

Get out your dutch oven and if you don’t have one, get out a heavy bottom stock pot and place it over low heat. Add the cooking oil to the pot. Add the onions and stir to ensure they are evenly coated in the oil. Cover and cook for 20 minutes (I’d recommend one hour) stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Cook until they become very tender and translucent. (Then, I would also recommend cooking the onions for another thirty minutes uncovered.) Then increase heat to a medium high heat. Add the sugar, salt and sage. Continue to cook uncovered, stirring frequently, until the onions are properly browned.

Once the onions are caramelized, reduce heat to medium low and add the flour to the onions. Brown the flour for about 2-3 minutes, but don’t burn the everliving hell out of it. Drizzle the cognac over the onions and light that puppy on fire (never a real puppy that would be cruel and evidence of your sociopathic nature). The onions will flambé for only a moment. Keep the lid close by in case you need to put the fire out. By the way, the cognac is totally optional. Please don’t try to flambé your onions while underway on a passage. I feel that it is a bad idea.

Once the fire is out, add the wine. Stir up those onions to properly deglaze the pan. Then add the stock and bay leaf to the pot. Simmer for 30-60 minutes. Add some salt and pepper to season the soup to your taste.

In each individual’s big bowl, pour in some soup. In a separate bowl, combine the two cheeses or vegans can use soy cheese or no cheese. Then top the soup with the toasted sliced of bread and the cheese mixture. Quickly cover each bowl with foil. The steamy heat of the soup will melt the cheese over the delicious onion soaked French bread. Et voilá, I give you vegetarian/vegan happiness in a bowl. Bon appétit.

 

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