Onion soups that make you weep
FEBRUARY 25, 2014
By Jay Furst
Who makes onion soup good enough to make a grown man weep?
The French, of course. They didn't invent onion soup, but they perfected it about 200 years ago by balancing the taste of fresh onions with a mild, beefy broth, then topping it with crisp croutons and cheese, preferably Gruyere, popped into the oven long enough to weld the flavors together.
Viola! It's a soup for the ages, and aside from soups du jour, it's the only one routinely on the menu at most restaurants.....
It's on the menu at maybe a dozen restaurants around the area, and it's a signature dish for many of them, as Four Stars readers informed me during the past month. Several readers reminded me that the Old Mill restaurant, just north of Austin, has one of the best.
Dave Forland, the owner and kitchen maestro, says they make it five gallons at a time, with about a dozen colossal onions, reduced, then enhanced with a beef soup base and a touch of Chardonnay during the simmering. "It's takes some time." Dave says, but it's a big favorite, and they sell a few gallons a day.
At the Old Mill, they finish it with crushed garlic toast, top it with provolone, Romano and Parmesan, and then heat it up in a toaster oven. "We toast it for a short time, just to melt the cheese and give it a little color." Dave says, and then it's off to the table.....
What makes a classic French onion soup or onion soup gratinee or whatever you want to call it? Let's peel back the layers.
Make the broth special: Some of the soups we tried were fairly bland, and others tasted as if they were from on onion soup mix or canned stock. Ideally, it's a rich broth made from patiently "sweating" and simmering onions enhanced with the kitchen's own beef broth.
It's not a stew: No need to fill the bowl with chopped onions. Like French everything, it's all about proportion and balance.
Volcanic is better than lukewarm: The best French onion soup is finished in the oven, not just to melt and color the cheese but to meld and seal in the flavor before it's served. It's trickier than you might think to serve the soup appropriately hot.
No bread pudding, please: The croutons should be whole and crispy under the cheese, at least when the bowl hits the table. The layered texture of the soup is one of it's great pleasures.