Read Around My French Table Online

Authors: Dorie Greenspan

Around My French Table (13 page)

BOOK: Around My French Table
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STORING
Socca's not meant to be kept—eat and enjoy.

SOUPS

 

Soups

Cheese-Topped Onion Soup
[>]

Asparagus Soup
[>]

Cheating-on-Winter Pea Soup
[>]

Corn Soup
[>]

Christine's Simple Party Soups:
Cream-Topped Asparagus, Red Pepper, and Broccoli
[>]

Celery-Celery Soup
[>]

Leek and Potato Soup, Smooth or Chunky, Hot or Cold
[>]

Creamy Cauliflower Soup Sans Cream
[>]

Côte d'Azur Cure-All Soup
[>]

Paris Mushroom Soup
[>]

Spur-of-the-Moment Vegetable Soup,
aka Stone Soup (The Carrot Version)
[>]

Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Parsley Coulis
[>]

Béatrix's Red Kuri Soup
[>]

Spiced Squash, Fennel and Pear Soup
[>]

Chestnut-Pear Soup
[>]

Provençal Vegetable Soup
[>]

Garbure from the Supermarket
[>]

Vegetable Barley Soup with the Taste of Little India
[>]

Orange-Scented Lentil Soup
[>]

Riviera Fish Soup
[>]

Simplest Breton Fish Soup
[>]

Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup
[>]

Cold Melon-Berry Soup
[>]

Cheese-Topped Onion Soup

B
Y THE TIME I GOT TO PARIS,
the wreckers had dismantled much of Les Halles, the legendary food market in the heart of the city. Some of the building's graceful cast-ironwork remained, some panels still had glass, and in a couple of places, it was still possible to peer inside to get an idea of the market's immensity and, with a vivid imagination, produce a dreamscape of what it might have been like when Emile Zola called it "the belly of Paris." I longed to have been there when the market was in action, but I'd missed the moment. I was never going to hear the raucous sounds of commerce or rub shoulders with the market's characters, who, by all accounts, might have come straight from central casting. There was only one ritual left from the days of Les Halles that could still be practiced, and Michael and I did it: we ate onion soup in one of the brasseries that surround the market's remains.

In novels by Zola and Hemingway, it always seemed to be four in the morning, and ladies in evening gowns and fur shrugs, butchers in bloodstained white jackets, and rich men in tuxedos sat elbow-to-elbow on the brasseries' red-leather banquettes. But if the crowd wasn't the same, the fare was—cheese-topped onion soup served in heavy crockery bowls.

Some say that, technically, it's the bubbling melted cheese that makes onion soup Parisian, although there are plenty of cooks in Lyon who might argue. Regardless of where in France the soup is made, the cheese is traditionally Gruyère or Comté, both Alpine cow's-milk cheeses that are firm, grateable, very nutty in flavor, and supremely meltable. (You can also use Swiss cheese, but you'll get a stretchier and sweetish rather than nutty topping.)

There's nothing tricky about making perfect onion soup, but it does take time and patience to coax every little bit of caramelized flavor and color from the onions. Cook the onions until they are almost the color of mahogany, and everything after that will be perfect.

Just one more thing: If you want the soup to live up to Les Halles standards, you must serve it
brûlante,
or burning hot. All the old recipes I've seen insist on this. My guess is that at 4 a.m., when the market was closing down, workers and revelers alike needed every bit of warmth they could get, and with steaming onion soup, they got that and something filling, comforting, and delicious as well.

4-5
large Spanish onions (about 4 pounds)
2
tablespoons olive oil
1
tablespoon unsalted butter
3
garlic cloves, split, germ removed, and minced
Salt
1
tablespoon all-purpose flour
1
cup dry white wine
8
cups chicken broth
Freshly ground white pepper
6
slices country bread
About 2 tablespoons Cognac or other brandy

cups coarsely grated Gruyère, Comté, or Emmenthal (6 ounces)

Using a long chef's knife, cut I onion in half from top to bottom. Lay it cut side down on the cutting board, cut it lengthwise in half again, leaving it intact at the root end, and then thinly slice crosswise (discard the root end). Repeat with the remaining onions.

Put the olive oil and butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot and put the pot over low heat. (I use an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.) When the butter is melted, add the onions and garlic, season with salt, and stir with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they are a deep caramel color. Have patience: depending on the heat and the onions, this may take an hour or more. And don't be tempted to try to speed things up, because if you burn the onions, your soup will have a bitter taste. On the other hand, if you don't get the onions really brown, your soup will be pale in both taste and looks.

Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir for a minute or so to cook away the flour's raw taste. Pour in ⅓ cup of the wine and, stirring to pick up any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pot, let the wine cook away, a matter of a minute or two. Pour in the chicken broth and the remaining ⅔ cup wine, season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the liquid just simmers, partially cover the pot, and cook for 30 minutes. Check the soup for seasoning, adding white pepper and more salt if needed.
(You can set the soup aside for up to 2 hours, until serving time, or refrigerate it for up to 3 days; bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes before continuing.)

Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and have six deep ovenproof soup bowls at the ready.

If necessary, cut the slices of bread so that they fit into your soup bowls. It's up to you whether you want the bread to almost cover the surface of the soup or to float in the soup like a large crouton. (For true
soupe à l'oignon gratinée
Paris-style, you want the bread to cover the entire surface, and you hope that the cheese will melt and bubble so exuberantly that some of it will stick to the sides of the bowls.) Place the bread on the lined baking sheet and broil just until the slices are toasted; flip over and color the other side.

Remove the bread, and put the soup bowls on the baking sheet. Pour about 1 teaspoon Cognac (use more or less according to your taste) into each bowl. Ladle in the soup, top each with a slice of bread, and cover the bread with the grated cheese. Run the soup under the broiler just until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve immediately, while the soup is
brûlante.

 

MAKES 6 SERVINGS

 

SERVING
The best accompaniment to onion soup is a warning about its heat. And the most helpful accompaniment is a saucer under the bowl—this is not a soup meant to be eaten daintily, and some of it is bound to slip over the sides of the bowl when you're negotiating the bread-and-cheese crust.

 

STORING
The soup, minus the bread and cheese, can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator. Alternatively, it can be packed airtight and kept in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes or so before topping it with bread and cheese—you want to make sure the soup is super-hot.

 

BONNE IDÉE
To make the soup substantial enough to serve as lunch or even supper with salad and a cheese course, add some meat to it. Shredded beef from a daube (
[>]
) or other braised dish, or even small cubes of leftover chicken, are good, if very untraditional. Just put them in the bottom of the bowls along with the Cognac, then ladle in the soup.

 

Asparagus Soup

I
COULD HAVE CALLED THIS SOUP
"
Enfin!
It's spring." Even though it's delicate and the color of the first little leaves on a sapling, the definitive flavor of asparagus shines through.


pounds asparagus
1
Kosher salt or other
2
coarse salt
1
tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1
tablespoon unsalted butter
2
medium leeks, white and light green parts only, split lengthwise, washed, and sliced
1
large white onion, thinly sliced
1
large shallot, sliced
1
garlic clove, split, germ removed, and sliced
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Crème fraîche, if serving the soup hot
Unsweetened whipped cream, if serving the soup cold
Snipped fresh chives, for garnish (optional)

Using a vegetable peeler, peel the asparagus from about an inch below their tips to the ends of their stalks; reserve the trimmings. Cut the bottoms of the stalks off at the point at which they become woody, and keep these trimmings too. Cut the spears in half. Bundle up the trimmings in a piece of cheesecloth and tie it like a hobo's sack with some kitchen twine.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding 1 teaspoon of kosher or other coarse salt for every quart of water. Have a colander and at least a dozen ice cubes at the ready.

Toss the asparagus and the bundle of trimmings into the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Scoop the asparagus out of the pot and into the colander (don't discard the cooking liquid), run the asparagus under cold water for a minute to cool them down, and then cover them with the ice cubes; set aside in the sink or a bowl. Discard the trimmings; reserve 6 cups of the cooking liquid.

Dry the pot, add the oil and butter, and warm over low heat. Toss in the leeks, onion, shallot, and garlic, season with salt and white pepper, and stir everything around until it glistens. Cover the pot and cook gently for about 15 minutes, until the onion and its companions are very soft but not colored.

Pour in the reserved cooking liquid and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat so that it simmers, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the cover, toss in the asparagus, and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender or food processor; or use an immersion blender. For a finer, even more elegant soup, run the soup through a strainer. Taste the soup for salt and pepper, reheat it very, very gently if you're serving it hot, or chill it to serve cold.

At serving time, top with a spoonful of crème fraîche if the soup is hot, or whipped cream if it's cold. If you'd like, sprinkle the cream with chives.

 

MAKES 6 SERVINGS

 

SERVING
Whether the soup is hot or cold, I often serve it in smaller-than-usual portions because I think it adds to the soup's sophistication. I use small bowls, the kind normally used for rice, for the cold soup and demitasse cups for the hot. Of course, if you use smaller bowls, you'll get more than 6 servings.

 

STORING
The soup can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator overnight. If you're serving the soup hot, reheat it gently in an uncovered pot; if you're serving it cold, make sure to shake the sealed container or stir the soup well.

BOOK: Around My French Table
3.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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