Back in the mid 1970's, during my University Days . . . I had a friend named Julia. She always seemed extremely exotic and daring to me.
For one thing, she came from the big city of Montreal . . . whereas I had grown up in small town nowhere.
For another thing she was living with her boyfriend . . . something else I would never had dared to do back then. Just the thought of it would have killed my mother . . . really.
She eschewed bras, shaving under the arms, and wore halter tops, and she spoke with a very posh Canadian Accent . . . not the small town Nova Scotian Accent that I had . . .
She loved to cook. Wonderfully exotic dishes . . . things I had never heard of in my lifetime, or tasted. Cooking was art to her and . . . while I loved to cook too . . . I had a very narrow repertoire, my sole experience having been based on my mother's simple country cooking and what I had been taught in Home Economics and the few Madame Benoit shows I'd managed to catch on the Take 30 show on weekday television.
This was way before Yan Can Cook, or the Galloping Gourmet!! Or at least before I had ever heard of these chefs . . . (Yes, I was very naieve and innocent!)
Julia introduced me to such exotic dishes as boeuf bourginon and poulet saute a l'estragon . . . I thought she was ever so sophisticated, and I devoured all of her ideas and recipes.
To this day, I never ever cook French Onion Soup without thinking of Julia. I remember thinking this simple soup was a little taste of heaven the first time she made it for us at a little soiree she threw. I remember watching her make it very carefully. She used tinned beef consomme, Campbells if I remember correct and then she used mozzarella and parmesan cheeses . . . the Parmesan pre-grated and from a green cardboard cylinder and the mozzarella also from a hard block and grated. I can remember there being so much mozzarella cheese that we almost choked on it. I think the idea was to have so much Mozzarella that it really strung out when you dipped it out of your bowl.
I have come a very long way since then . . . and I would never use tinned beef consomme . . . I'd also never use cheese from a green cardboard cylinder or mozzarella . . . my cheese of choice being freshly grated Parmesan and sweet and nutty freshly grated Gruyere . . .
I expect that Julia would never use them anymore either . . . I often wonder what happened to her. I imagine that she is the lady in residence of a beautiful country home or the wife of a Canadian Diplomat . . . or maybe she is just like me . . . a card carrying foodie, that just can't get enough . . .
of what else . . . but . . . food, recipes, and . . . French Onion Soup.
*French Onion Soup*
Serves 4 to 6
(Depending on how greedy you are)
Sitting down to a hot bowl of this delicious soup, one might imagine that they are sitting in a little Bistro in the middle of Paris, instead of in a windswept and wet cottage in the middle of Kent. Ahh . . . perchance to dream . . .
50g unsalted butter
1 TBS olive oil
3 large spanish type of onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 TBS plain flour
1 litre of well flavoured beef or chicken stock
600ml dry white wine
1 fresh bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 baguette, thinly sliced
200g freshly grated Gruyere cheese
4 to 6 TBS of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Heat over medim heat, until the butter is melted and beginning to foam. Add the onions, reduce the heat and cook over low for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook for several minutes until very fragrant. Stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Add the stock, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, then immediately reduce the heat and simmer on low, very gently for 20 to 25 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Turn out the heat and allow it to stand for about half an hour to an hour.
When you are ready to serve, gently re-heat the soup until it is hot. Pre-heat the grill to high. Place the baguette slices on a baking tray and brown under the grill until lightly toasted on both sides. Ladle the soup into oven proof bowls and place the bowls on a baking tray. Top each bowl of soup with a few baguette rounds and sprinkle evenly with first the Gruyere cheese and then the Parmesan. Place under the grill and cook until browned and bubbling. Serve immediately.