Classic French onion soup is hearty, rich, and incredibly delicious. Rich homemade beef stock, kissed with vermouth, caramelized onions, crisp croutons, and melted Gruyere cheese on top.
As much as I’ve embraced technology in the last year, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to use a Kindle. There’s something about touching the pages of a book, cracking open the spine, taking a sniff of the pages that will keep me reading real books. Leather is romantic…a slab of glass and metal is not.
Probably my worst habit, well probably not my worst, but the only one I’ll admit to, are the stacks of books by my bedside and on my nightstand. This drives my husband mad. I don’t buy many books any more, except cookbooks. My favorite ones have bent pages, marks where I’ve noted changes, and spatter marks. This does not bother me…those marks are like the wrinkles on a face. They indicate a life well lived.
I don’t think I want to be a coffee table book either…I don’t want to be something to just look at, my spine never cracked, my pages never smelled, my story never read. We are all on borrowed time and I want to leave this library with many chapters, stained with tears of joy and sadness and with dog-eared pages. I look forward to filling the unwritten pages and the new chapters in my book. Write on my pages. Read me.
So, what would my 5 favorite desert island cookbooks be? In no particular order:
1. Julia Child’s, The Way To Cook (I’m sticking to one book per author, otherwise I’d have to include Mastering the Art of French Cooking, also by Julia.) These are reference books as much as cookbooks, and I return to them to bring me back to the basics of cooking school. I love Patricia Wells. Her books are about down to earth cooking and eating as well as being great reads, so number two is…
2. At Home in Provence.
3. The New York Times Cookbook, by Craig Claiborne. This cookbook has really taken some abuse. It’s a combination of classic and international food.
4. The Boston Cooking-School cookbook. This book was my mom’s from the late 50’s or early 60’s. I can’t tell anymore because it’s missing its cover and a few of the front pages, it’s held together with a rubber band. It’s great for all those old fashioned recipes that no one seems to make anymore.
Lastly, and this is so hard. I have four of Madhur Jaffery’s books. She specializes in Indian cookery, but has cookbooks on Far Eastern cuisine as well, which is my go-to book for anything Asian. I’d have to chose one of her latest though:
5. World Vegetarian is huge and has vegetarian recipes from all over the world, which would account for that oh, so clever title! I’ll be posting from all of these cookbooks some time soon, but where else to begin but with a classic?
Julia Child’s Classic French Onion Soup!
French Onion Soup Gratine
- 3 Tablespoons butter
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 8 cups thinly sliced onions I just used a 3 pound bag)
- 1/2 tsp. each salt and sugar sugar helps caramelize the onions
- 2 Tablespoons flour
- 2 1/2 quarts beef stock
- 4 to 5 Tablespoons Cognac or Brandy.
- 1 cup dry white French vermouth
- Croutons made from good quality bread cut into 3/4" thick slices and toasted
- Grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
- Using a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the oil and butter over a moderate heat.
- Add the onions and cover. Cook over a low heat until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in salt and sugar, raise heat to moderately high and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color, 25 to 30 minutes.
- Stir in flour and cook slowly, stirring, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, then whisk in 2 cups of hot stock. When well blended, bring to a simmer, add the rest of the stock, the brandy or Cognac and the vermouth.
- Cover loosely and simmer very slowly 1 1/2 hours, adding a little water if the liquid reduces too much.
- Adjust seasoning.
- To finish the soup, brush both sides of the bread slices with olive oil, then rub the cut side of a clove of garlic over both sides. Toast under a broiler, flipping until both sides are golden brown.
- Ladle soup into oven proof bowls.
- Float one or two croutons on top of the soup to cover.
- Top with grated cheese.
- Pop under the broiler, watching carefully, since it will brown fast! Broil until cheese is melted and light golden brown.