I can still remember the very first time I tasted French Onion Soup. It was when I had been married for the first time. My husband and I were students at a University back home. We had a pair of friends who were very modern and living together, a very much unheard of thing back in those days in the bible-belt of Canada. (I know I am dating myself here.)
Julia, the female half of that companionship was very exotic to me. Not only was she from a large city . . . Montreal, but she had a quasi British accent, wore halter tops and ankle bracelets and was a budding feminist. None of which I had ever experienced thus far in my somewhat sheltered 20 years of life.
She loved to cook and she had money to cook with. I loved to cook also, but couldn't afford to really explore much on our very limited student income. One night they invited us to a dinner party . . . something else which I had ever experienced. The starter she served was . . . French Onion Soup . . . another first for me, and it was delicious. I fell in love with the soup and everything else that was served and I wanted to be just like Julia.
My next experience with French Onion Soup was during the early days of my second marriage, at a chain restaurant in Winnipeg Manitoba. The soup itself was quite delicious but there was so much cheese in it, that it became cloying and overwhelming . . . so much so that you risked gagging and choking when you were trying to eat it. Not good. This was not the soup of Julia . . .
After that I made it my mission to create a French Onion Soup that was entirely reminiscent of Julia's . . . filled with onion flavour, with just the right amount of cheese and toast . . . this soup I am showing you today is the result of years and years of experimentation and I think it is quite supposedly one of the best French Onion Soups out there.
The secret is a very well flavoured beef stock . . . and richly browned onions to begin with. You want them almost caramelized, but not burnt. There is a trick to getting them just right. Don't be in a rush. Long slow cooking until they are soft and golden brown is your reward for patience and is the secret to it's rich onion flavour.
A hint of thyme and bay, a touch of dry sherry, garlic rubbed toasts and just the right amount of cheese complete what is a very tasty bowl of soup.
*French Onion Soup*Serves 4
Place beneath the grill and broil until the cheese melts and turns golden brown. Serve immediately. Alternately you may place the bowls of soup onto a baking tray, float the toasts and cheese on top and bake in a preheated 225*C/425*F/ gas mark 7 oven until golden.
I often find myself wondering whatever happened to Julia. I think it would be really interesting to find out what she did next. Unfortunately I can't remember what her last name was. Oh well . . . whatever happened I am sure she was a great success at it! She certainly left her mark on me. Bon Appetit!