Hearty Fall Cookery
It’s been dark, grey, and pouring rain for days and been craving a bowl of traditional French onion soup to ply the spirit and ward off the creeping dampness settling in too comfortably.
As the soup’s aroma filled the kitchen and cooking seemed like a daylong remedy for rainy day blues, a roasting chicken in the oven would nicely continue the intended diversion.
Thanks to Julia Child a French onion soup was on the stove and a chicken was in preparation for roasting. Why not roast the chicken bathed in caramelized onions. The economy of tandem cooking was appealing, making several meals at once, some served, and the rest put up in the freezer for some easy quick meals later! The gloom bearing down outside was instantly banished and with a bowl of steeping hot onion soup…forgotten!
French Onion Soup: makes 2 ½ quarts
- 2 pounds onions, skin removed, halved and thinly sliced
- 6 large garlic cloves, skin removed and finely sliced (optional)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 9 cups simmering beef stock (or chicken)
- sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons cognac (optional)
- toasted baguette wedges
Melt the butter and olive oil together in a large heavy bottomed pot with lid over low heat. Add the sliced onions and garlic (if using) and toss to combine with the butter and oil. Cover the pot and sweat the onions/garlic for 15 minutes, stirring several times while they steam.
Once the onions are soft and translucent add the salt and sugar and stir to combine. Turn the heat up a little bit and cook the onions/garlic, stirring frequently, until the mixture caramelizes and a light amber color. This will take 30 to 40 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour over the onions, stir in, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add the simmering hot stock and stir. Partially cover the pot and continue simmering the soup for 30 to 40 minutes, skimming off the foam that forms on the surface from time to time.
Once the soup is finished cooking and has thickened slightly, taste and add sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste. Set aside until you are ready to serve. Add the optional cognac just before serving.
Prepare oven toasted wedges of baguette and top with cheese (Gruyere is traditional) and place on top of each serving of soup in an oven proof bowls and place under the broiler until the cheese is molten and lightly browned. An alternative is to place the cheese on the toasted baguette and place in the oven until the cheese is melted. Serve placed on top of the soup.
Roast Chicken with Caramelized Onions: serves 4
preheat oven to 400F/205C
- 1 fresh free range chicken, backbone removed and split into halves
- 1 quart French onion soup
Prepare the chicken, removing the backbone and splitting the chicken in half along the breast bone. Remove any excess fat and discard.
Place the onion soup in a cast iron Dutch oven, or large ovenproof casserole with lid. Add the chicken and spoon the onion soup over the chicken. Cover with lid and place in the center of the oven and roast for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and baste the chicken with the soup, which has now reduced and caramelized. Add additional soup if needed to finish the roasting. Return the chicken to the oven with the lid off and roast an additional 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and set aside with lid on for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and baste with the now caramelized onions, divide the chicken into four servings, spooning additional onions over each serving…and voila!
Caramelized Onion Confit:
Reducing some French onion soup, adding additional pepper and a pinch of anise seeds, until thickened and cooled makes a wonderful spread for toasted baguette with assorted cheeses as an hors d’oeuvre.