Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Winter Soups: French Onion Soup...and Quick Quiche

C'est moi a long time ago.


I'm glad you dropped by my virtual potluck today because Mari Farthing is visiting. We met at the first table reading of the Listen to Your Mother OKC.  You may remember her from our summer party or her blogs at Oklahoma Women Bloggers, Music Mamas and Mari's Virtual Notebook.

Today, she brought a little bit of France with her. The recipe is fancier than I usually attempt, but it is French, and who can say non to that? Mari is nice and didn't make fun of me at all when I asked her what it meant to make an onion "sweat" and what the difference between stock and "broth" are. In case you are as challenged as I am in the kitchen, I added some links to explain these culinary quandaries further, and realized it really is pretty easy. If you already know all the cooking terminology, then skip the links and feel smug.

Bon appétit! 

I'll leave you and Mari to chat....

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago (i.e., before kids), my husband and I were blessed to live in Europe for four years, courtesy of the USAF. During this time, we were able to travel all around the continent and see as much of the world as we could. The final trip we went on was to the Normandy region of France, where we could visit places that would meet both of our wants—the landing beaches of DDay, the American WWII cemetery and Caen war memorial for him; Monet’s home in Giverny and Le Mont Saint Michel for me.

It was a gorgeous trip; as I recall it now (as one is wont to do), the weather was agreeable, the locals were gracious and still effusively thankful and happy to see Americans (which, to be honest, was something of a rarity in France). This trip stands out from all the others because it was our last time to travel before returning stateside. We still didn’t know where we were heading, so there was an excitement in the air—adventures awaited us.

On that first stop in Giverny, we had a bit of free time and stopped at a café—that’s something that Europe does with aplomb. Even the tiniest of villages has a café (or two) with character and outdoor tables that provide the best possible entertainment in the form of people watching. As we perused the menu at this café, using our limited knowledge of French language to navigate the offerings, we found the perfect lunch: French onion soup and quiche.

I realize now that perhaps I should have chosen a less perfect meal, as the soup and quiche were so well done as to eclipse all other attempts at this treat. On second thought, nah. I’ll never be sorry for that lunch eaten on the street at a café in a small town in France. I hope to someday repeat the experience!

Magical Meal Combination
I’ve since made both quiche and French onion soup in my own kitchen, and if you throw in a salad of baby greens with a mustard vinaigrette, you’ve got a pretty perfect lunch. Even better if eaten al fresco with a nice glass of wine.

Special Tricks...bonus recipe!
Quiche is very easy—I like to make it on a day when I’m also cleaning out the fridge. If I’ve got leftover eggs, leftover vegetables, some type of protein and shredded cheese? There will be quiche. 

I make mine in a muffin tin, no crust required. Spray the cups with oil, portion out your fillings and fill the cups to about ¾ full with a beaten egg mixture (about 6 eggs with a splash of milk or cream if you so desire). Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or so and freeze what you don’t eat.

But back to the soup! Here is a good basic recipe that I’ve put together, inspired by my dad’s recipe and celebrity chef Anne Burrell. It’s a worth-the-wait soup that has few ingredients but results in an amazingly rich soup to warm you on a cold winter’s night.

French Onion Soup

6-8 large onions, thinly sliced into rings
¾ cup red wine (something you like to drink)
4 bay leaves
small bunch of fresh thyme
2 quarts of chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil and add the onions. Sprinkle with plenty of salt and stir well. Turn heat on medium, cover and let onions (I used half white and half yellow because that’s what I had) sweat for about 15-20 minutes.
before the onions sweat
sweating onions

Onions should now be very soft. Cook uncovered for about an hour until onions become reduced, browned and sweet. If you’ve seen Chef Burrell make this soup, you’ve heard her assert that there is no shortcut to this; you must take the time and let the flavors develop.

Add the wine and let it reduce for about 15 minutes. Add the bay leaves, thyme and chicken stock. I prefer to add my stock warmed because I’m usually defrosting it when I make the soup. Simmer again for another hour or so (the soup will look somewhat purple when you start this part, but mellow out to a lovely, rich brown after cooking). Season with salt and pepper to taste (the onions do become surprisingly sweet after cooking). If the soup seems too thick, add a bit of chicken stock to thin it down a bit.

To serve, ladle soup into a stoneware bowl, top with a lovely slice of crusty bread (croutons can work here quite well), grated cheese, and broil until the cheese gets bubbly.

Bubbly cheese. That’s the magic right there.

Magic Onion Soup
served with a Malbec
& toasted ciabatta bread and brie from Whole Foods
Freeze it if you don’t eat it all right away!


  1. Totally making this next weekend- LOVE french onion soup. Can't wait to see them sweat!

    1. Garrett wanted to make it this weekend, too! Can't wait to taste it. Let me know how yours turns out.

  2. I tuned in for onion soup (and a lovely recipe it is!) and left with great tips for quiche - I love a twofer!