Archive | February, 2011

Onion Soup Mark 1.

1 Feb

Here is the first instalment of my Onion Soup escapade.

I think that this recipe is a good base to work from but there is, as ever, room for improvement. I realise that the way of blogs is not normally to post stuff that’s half finished, but I think you can argue that a dish is never quite finished. You are always tweaking it depending on mood and available ingredients.

This method of posting also allows me to crowd source the testing and get more feedback which is always a bonus. Therefore any comments would be greatly appreciated.

To give you some insight into my thought process, I made use of sherry vinegar because sherry has a compound in it called DKP. This reacts with Unami (THE MYSTERIOUS FIFTH TASTE) compounds such as those found in Parmesan or Grana Padano(another hard cheese) and whacks them into overdrive.

You can get sherry vinegar from Sainsbury’s, but as ever it’s worth seeking out something a bit special to add a bit more flavour. I’ve got really into sherry recently, so it’s something I will be blogging about more in the future.

Serves 4

50g unsalted butter
900g onions, thinly sliced
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
1.5 litres chicken stock
50g Parmesan or Grana Padano, grated (plus a piece of rind if you have one)
A squeeze of lemon juice

This recipe takes around 2 hours, depending on how long the onions take to caramelise and how long you simmer it for. There is however very little hands on cooking. It’s a good thing to make over a weekend and freeze so you have loads of lovely soup for when you come in from work and are too tired to think.

First, slice your onions as thinly as possible into strips.

Try and slice them all equally.

Next put a big cast iron pan on a low heat, so usually about 2 on the hob. You want a good balance between the onions taking ages and not burning them. Add the butter to the pan and let it melt before adding the onions. You don’t want the butter to brown, so if it starts to do that turn the heat down.

You want to let your onions caramelise, so stir them periodically. Taste them every so often to see how soft they are getting. If you stir them all the time you wont’ get the caramelisation and it will take much longer as stirring lowers the temperature this will take around half an hour. You want to wait till the onions have gone a nice deep brown, and then add the vinegar.

This sort of went a bit wrong. The colouring should be more even.

Let this boil off before adding the stock. I use cubes as I don’t have a freezer to store stock, but if you use fresh it will definitely enhance the taste.

Bring the stock up to the boil before bringing the heat down to a simmer. You want a couple of bubbles periodically floating to the surface, but not a full on boil as that will reduce the stock too much. If this happens, and it can if you leave the pan as I do, just taste it to see if it’s too strong and top it up with a bit of water if required, adding a little at a time. If you have a piece of the rind you want to drop it into the stock when it is simmering. This will add a massive amount of flavour, although there is a tendency for the cheese to stick to the bottom. Don’t worry about this.

I’d simmer the soup for about an hour, maybe two. You want to add salt and pepper to taste about 20 minutes after you add the rind. Parmesan can be quite salty so you want to give it time to infuse through the soup.

To serve, fish the rind and onions out with a slotted spoon or pour the whole soup through a colander into another dish. The onions can be left in although they won’t have any real flavour. I leave them in when I am trying to fill myself up for not very much money. Grate the Parmesan on the top, taste and add a bit of lemon to cut through the richness and add a bit of sparkle.

Souper. I sort of hate myself for this caption.

The most important thing is to keep tasting periodically. Often people, myself included, will serve something only to say “Oh it needs a bit more X”. If you had tasted it during cooking, it would still have needed that X, but you could have added it and wowed your guests even further. So give it a try next time.

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