12 December 2010

Gluten-Free Recipe: French Onion Soup

Yes, friends, it's been a few weeks since I've blogged. I am very happy to report I have completed my first  DPD semester (Didactic Program in Dietetics) at Simmons College -- I'm quite proud of myself for this achievement which has me on the path to a terrific career. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving (running the SRR & Marathon Sports Gobble Gobble Gobble with the lovely ladies of Guiltless then my grandparents' in rural Connecticut) and the last few weeks are a blur of studying, cramming, cooking, eating, running and socializing. Since classes ended, I've surprisingly done a fantastic job relaxing and doing things I love, as well as being productive.

Despite it being mid-December here in Boston, I've only seen a few flurries on one occasion. It's been pouring all day and I can't help but wish it were snow; I am a country girl from New Hampshire, after all. Listening to the icy rain pelt my bedroom windows this morning as I lay in my warm, cozy bed, I decided today was the day to tackle one of my culinary to-do list items: make my own French Onion Soup.

I spent nearly an hour consulting nearly a dozen of my cookbooks as well as the internet for the perfect recipe. Maybe it was the recipe calling for brandy or its incredibly classic approach, but I finally chose to use the recipe in the Culinary Institute of America Cookbook, which I often consult but rarely use. The results were even better than I had anticipated and well-worth the over four hours in the kitchen. This soup is truly a labor of love, but also is perfection in a hot bowl.

French Onion Soup
modified from the Culinary Institute of America Cookbook 

1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium onions, thinly sliced (should yield approximately five cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup brandy (note: two "nips" are about the equivalent if you do not want to buy a larger bottle)
1 1/2 quarts beef stock (I wish I made it from scratch but used More Than Gourmet Beef Stock which is incredibly flavorful yet gluten-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free and lactose-free)
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
2 whole bay leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
French bread (I used Against the Grain Gluten-Free Rosemary Baguette)
Gruyere cheese, grated (I used Whole Foods Le Gruyere)

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until the onions begin to brown. Raise the heat to medium, stir, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deeply caramelized (dark golden brown), approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. If the onions begin to scorch, add a bit of water, stir, and continue cooking. While the onions are caramelizing, prepare a cheesecloth sachet of Herbes de Provence and bay leaves.

Add the garlic and continue to cook an additional few minutes, until fragrant. Add the brandy and simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth and sachet. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, skimming the surface for fat as necessary. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oven-proof soup crocks or bowls in baking pan and fill pan until water reaches 2/3 up the sides of the crocks. Remove crocks then pour water into saucepan to boil. Ladle soup into crocks, topping each with enough bread to cover the surface. Sprinkle bread with grated cheese, covering completely and allowing cheese to touch edge of the crock.

Pour boiling water into the baking dish with prepared soup crocks, then carefully place in oven. Bake until cheese is lightly browned and soup is bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve immediately. Caution: soup and crocks will be incredibly hot. Bon appetit!