11/13/11

Onion Soup, Madeira, and Gruyère Toasts

Can I tell you how much I’m enjoying this time of year? Because of Daylight Saving Time, I’ve been waking up almost naturally at 6am. I love this. It makes me feel capable before the day has even begun.

And since we rarely turn on the heat, the mornings in our apartment are really cold. So, after making coffee, I wrap myself in a wool blanket, turn on my computer, and write. (Yeah, right. I wish! I actually get to checking my email and various blogs. At best, after a half hour of this, I make some sort of deal with myself and start writing.) Writing, writing, writing until I get super hungry, usually around 11am.
On days like this (where I need not report to work), I like to make soup for lunch. And, as previously discussed, the soup I’d gathered the ingredients for this time was Nigel Slater’s onion soup from his cookbook Tender. To be clear, I’d gathered all of the ingredients save for the Madeira, a fortified Portuguese wine. I’m sure if I had gone to a proper wine shop, I would have been able to find it, but I already had port at home and figured that would work just fine. Why? Because it was already there at home. Sidebar: did you know that by definition port is a fortified Portuguese wine? Apparently this is true.
I would recommend making this soup for the first step alone: simmering sliced onions in butter with two bay leaves for about 25 minutes. Almost instantly, the cold apartment warmed up and began smelling of the holidays. (Speaking of, if you’re like Matt and grew up celebrating Hanukkah, and sometimes have trouble remembering which day Christmas is, here’s a helpful site: isitchristmas.com.)
The soup was delicious. But let’s talk shop, eh? Why isn’t my soup a dark brown like Nigel’s? I followed his recipe exactly except for substituting a different kind of port. I mean, would the Madeira have really made that much of a difference? Well, my dear friend Mary Anne (pictured below trying out the soup) who happens to bear the last name Madeira and is also quite familiar with her ancestors' style of port, felt very confident that substituting the Madeira had nothing to do with the lighter color. Which begs the question: wtf? And I mean that in the best, most curious sense of the question. Please enlighten me if you have any ideas.
p.s. This soup marked the first time I have ever used our broiler. The reason for this is simple. It was also the first time I had bowls that were broiler-safe. Hurrah for my growing kitchen gadget/tool collection!

It should also be noted that I've just completed the ultra-rare Tender Trifecta, which is when one Bon Appetempts three recipes in a row from the cookbook Tender.

Onion soup, Madeira, and Gruyère Toasts by Nigel Slater via Tender
butter - a good thick slice
large onions - 3, sliced
bay leaves - 2
all-purpose flour - 2 tablespoons
white wine - 1 cup
chicken stock - 4 cups
Madeira - 3 to 4 tablespoons
sourdough bread - 8 small slices
Gruyère - 2 1/2 ounces, thinly sliced

Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan, add the sliced onions and the bay leaves, and let them cook, without coloring, over medium heat. you want them to be soft and slightly stick, which will take a good twenty-five minutes. When the are ready, stir in the flour, cook for a minute or so, then pour in the white wine, followed by the stock. Bring to a boil, season with salt and black pepper, then decrease the heat so that the soup simmers and simmer, with just an occasional stir, for thirty minutes. Add the Madeira and continue simmering for five to ten minutes.

Preheat the broiler. Toast the bread on one side, then cover the other side with the sliced Gruyère. Check the soup for seasoning, then spoon into heatproof bowls. Float the slices of bread on top and place under the broiler for a couple of minutes, until the cheese has melted.
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30 comments:

themoveablefeasts said...

Haha, loved the part of begging the "wtf" question. I have no clue, but yours still looks pretty darn delicious. I want the smell of onions and fat and bay leaves filling my house! I might have to make some onion soup soon.

PS: I'm not sure if you've mentioned this before (and please excuse me if you have), but what do you do for a living? I didn't know you write!

Rebecca said...

Your mornings sound a lot like mine. I love how cold it is right now. And I have this whole ritual for going out on the front steps with my coffee to watch when the light goes that orangey colour in the morning.

Dunno about the soup colour. I once made it with white wine because it was all I had and it was still brown-ish. Maybe it's from the onions?

Heather Taylor said...

1. Mare is pretty.

2. Nice ramekins

3. hi!!!! (said in our creepy voice)

Matthew said...

I'm loving this Tender kick! Will you be going for the superfecta? xoxox

jeana sohn said...

whoa! coziness! now i know what to do with my heart shape ramekins.

ps: a wool blanket means,,, a carrot?? ;)

Matt said...

Perhaps his onions were almost caramlized?

Anne Zimmerman said...

First of all, the bit about not turning on the heat, wrapping yourself in a blanket and writing is SO M.F.K. Fisher.
Second, you write from 6:30 AM till 11? I need to come do a writing boot camp with you. Seriously, I'm inspired.

amelia said...

@themoveablefeasts I wish I could say I write for a living, but alas, not really. Or rather, I couldn't "live" off of what I make from writing. I've written a novel (hasn't been published) and am currently working on an exciting new project! Hopefully more details on this later.

@Anne Zimmerman: Does the fact that it's 9:30am right now and what I'm doing is writing comment responses answer your question? I write, with Internet breaks, for most of the morning... In other words, I would not recommend signing up for my boot camp!! :)

amelia said...

ALSO, sorry. forgot!
@Matt: I think you're right. Though the directions clearly state to simmer the onions for 25 minutes, without letting them "color," from Nigel's picture, it seems pretty clear that his onions were cooked down much more than mine were!

keepfeeling said...

amelia! hi! i love cheesy onion soup and this one looks divine. i actually used to hate onions when i was growing up and my favorite soup was broccoli and cheese from the black-eyed-pea restaurant in texas. super southern, cheesy, majorly high in calories, and probably somewhat processed.

BUT, onion soup stole my heart about or 7 years ago. thanks for this delightful recipe!

xo

Rachel said...

Ditto Matt. Must be caramelized. I highly doubt the wine would make the difference. That color would seem to impart from burnt sugar (onions) of some kind. I always figured onion soup was done with caramelized onions. Interesting....

Mary Anne said...

Is it wrong that when I read the title of the post, I felt like the word "Madeira" was a reference to me? I'm so self-absorbed.

That soup was GOOD and I might make it soon! So honored that I got to eat it!!!!!!!

Eggton said...

Hmmm, maybe---just maybe--- in the photographed version of Nigel's it was actually beef stock, not chicken? Because the onions aren't supposed to caramelize, so it's probably not that. My onion soup last week was a deep brown because I used beef stock, I believe. But yours looks right tasty. So glad you posted it! I have decided that having left-over gruyere in the house is one of the best things about french onion soup.

Amy said...

Ooooh. I really want a bowl. I might be making this very, very soon. Bravo on the trifecta!

Anonymous said...

IK the recipe says otherwise, but Tender's looks a lot like beef stock. Just sayin'

amelia said...

@Eggton & @Anonymous: But why would Nigel lie to me?? After all we've been through!!

;)

seriously though, I think you're both right.

sandywarhol said...

With the cold weather coming in, I bet this will become one of our winter staples!

I'm a huge fan of everything you make!

Cheers,
Sandy
http://tinytinyfork.com/

Todd Martin said...

Thanks Amelia. I am doing a lot of blogging lately for the folks at Good Apps and this looks like it will be some good brain food which is much needed for these app reviews I do. Thanks!!

Hannah said...

The color question - my take. It may be that the onions went slightly past the stage he says making them a little more brown. Or it could be that the chicken stock he uses is darker. If he makes his own chicken stock and browns the chicken more, his stock would then come out darker - which may make the soup darker. I don't believe he is lying to you dear. His pictures may be slightly darker than yours as well.

Mark and Marsha said...

Who cares about the color when the soup looks THAT delicious!?!

Susan Cooper said...

All I can really say is YUMMMM!!!!. I just love a good onion soup. Susan Cooper

Anonymous said...

When I've made onion soup in the past it has been closer to the color of the cookbook. I usually beef stock and caramelize the onions more than yours have been done. If I recall I have cooked the onions for more like 40 minutes, starting with a pot full and cooking them down to around 25%.

Jessica said...

Your love of Tender pushed me over the edge, just bought the cookbook and can't wait to start attempting! I'm going for the onion soup on Saturday and will let you know how the color works out. My guess is it's a combo of what people are saying here, his own darker stock, carmelized onions and probably just a darker photo?? Thanks as always Amelia!!!!
-Jess

Megan Taylor said...

I totally made a version of this soup last year. Madeira and all (well, sans gratin). Does that count? Very festive and cozy...

Anonymous said...

The reason theres is probably darker is because they let the flour in the roux develop longer, he let the flour go beyond the blond stage... try that next time!! happy cooking!

amelia said...

@megan taylor: doesn't count!!
(j/k)

@everyone who has chimed in re: the color. Thanks, again! Perhaps with the bones from my Thanksgiving turkey, I will try this again with homemade chicken stock and cook the onions just a tad bit longer... could be fun to revisit.

Sunday Taylor said...

Amelia, I made a french onion soup recently from Gourmet magazine. It got very dark, but I used beef broth, maybe that is the difference. Yours look delicious! How comforting is this soup!

Kimberley said...

Okay, other folks have weighed in on this but, yeah, onion soup is usually made with beef stock! But you can always blame an over-processed photo/lighting conditions/food stylists sneaking in drops of brown food coloring - one never knows! Blame them! I heart french onion soup and your morning ritual.

Natalia said...

I always caramalize my onions for soup. It could also be he had a darker stock.

Nancy R said...

Actually Eggton, the onions are supposed to carmalize (this is where the recipe up above goes wrong). Exactly where that brown color comes from AND it also imparts a very particular deep flavor, it will only improve on an already great tasting soup. Try carmalizing onions for 2 hours in a 400 degree oven with a dutch oven pot, lid slightly ajar and see what happens, you will be happy you did. :)