Well, here is a little nod to Xtna and her penchant for soup and salad. I really wanted to keep the focus on the soup that i was making today and i felt that if i made any other main course it would distract from it. So, the natural addition to round out the meal was a salad. I wanted something that was varied enough to stand up to the soup (just you wait) but still nice and clean so as not to detract. I opted for a version of a salad Nicoise. It’s a tasty salad with many variation but i tried to keep it as traditional as possible. I was unable to get chervil so that is one thing you could definitely add that would be a nice addition to my recipe.
i started with a bed of red leaf lettuce, added some fresh green beans, trimmed and some thinly sliced green bell pepper. surround with one boiled egg and a tomato cut into eights. dress this with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. lay some anchovies over top and you are ready to eat. gotta love salad, its quick easy and delicious. i may be a little anal retentive but to ensure optimal serving temperature, i chilled the lettuce, tomatoes, anchovies and salad plates in the freezer for about five minutes right before building the salad. i wanted everything nicely chilled to balance the hot soup.
The soup that i wanted to make is almost a french onion soup. i say almost because, well, there are no onions in this particular soup. what, you say? how can it be french onion soup without onions? well, i think anyone who has ever read this blog knows that i have a very strong affinity for garlic. so, i decided to make a french garlic and shallot soup. and it turned out damned good if i don’t say so myself.
I’m sure i am sounding like a broken record but this is yet another recipe that i have taken from Alton Brown and modified. Sure, french onion soup is french onion soup but i want to give credit where credit is due. i really enjoyed his version with vidalia onions when i made it about a year ago (seems like a lifetime) so i knew it was a solid start for my experiment with garlic and shallots. two minor variations that i went with and that is to exclude the cider and to use just beef broth instead of a mixture of consume and chicken broth. i am quoting his original recipe as i think it is well worth the effort to make, if you want to make it as i did today, exclude the cider, double the beef broth and use 5 shallots and 6 heads of garlic in place of the onions. also, i used rounds of sourdough topped with gruyere for the lids. make sure not to make the lids too thick or they will be difficult to break apart with your spoon.
i was a bit nervous about this dish as the bowls i was using for the soup specifically say not to use them under a broiler. i took a chance since it was only for a brief few minutes they would be exposed but was half expecting an oven full of soup to clean up. I took the precaution of running the bowls under hot water before filling and broiling to avoid the temperature shock of going straight from cabinet to broiler. it may or may not have helped but it certainly didn’t hurt.
here is the original recipe, make the modifications above if you want to make it as served during this feast. As always, if i am out of line for quoting the recipe, please let me know and i will remove it. i simply don’t want to take credit for work that isn’t mine, i modified it but it is firmly based in Alton’s recipe.
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
10 Sweet onions (like Vidalias) or a combination of sweet and red onions
3 tablespoons Butter
2 cups White wine
10 ounces Canned beef consume
10 ounces Chicken broth
10 ounces Apple cider (unfiltered is best)
Bouquet garni; thyme sprigs, bay leaf and parsley
1 Loaf country style bread
Ground black pepper
Splash Cognac, optional
1 cup Grated Fontina or Gruyere cheese
Trim the ends off each onion then slice from end to end. Remove peel and finely slice into half moon shapes. Set electric skillet to 300 degrees and add butter. Once butter has melted add a layer of onions and sprinkle with a little salt. Repeat layering onions and salt until all onions are in the skillet. Do not try stirring until onions have sweated down for 15 to 20 minutes. After that, stir occasionally until onions are dark mahogany and reduced to approximately 2 cups. This should take 45 minutes to 1 hour. Do not worry about burning.
Add enough wine to cover the onions and turn heat to high, reducing the wine to a syrup consistency. Add consume, chicken broth, apple cider and bouquet garni. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
Place oven rack in top 1/3 of oven and heat broiler.
Cut country bread in rounds large enough to fit mouth of oven safe soup crocks. Place the slices on a baking sheet and place under broiler for 1 minute.
Season soup mixture with salt, pepper and cognac. Ladle soup into crocks leaving one inch to the lip. Place bread round, toasted side down, on top of soup and top with grated cheese. Broil until cheese is bubbly and golden, 1 to 2 minutes.
this was an amazing soup. the shallots and garlic gave it an intensely sweet and sharp taste. for those of you that have indulged in massive amounts of garlic, you can only imagine the aftermath. i’m not going to get scatological on you but let’s leave it at the fact that i really wished i could get far away from myself after my body started processing it. it was absolutely worth it though, i would do it again in a heartbeat. and yes, i peeled all my own garlic, drop those accusing fingers. no shortcuts to the 48 feasts.
27 to go.