I'm Chris - or Christopher - or Mr. Dean - or Master Christopher - or just plain Sir. I'm a self-professed foodie. I love to cook and I take great pleasure in all things edible. My husband and I are relatively new to Portland, Oregon and are enjoying our culinary explorations of the area!
Food is NOT just fuel!
Thursday, December 8, 2011
English Onion Soup with Sage & Cheddar
Who doesn’t love a good onion soup? I remember one specific moment with traditional French Onion Soup – after my Grandfather passed away, for a long while (before I took a job on a cruise ship out here in Portland, OR) I would pick up my Grandma once a week. I’d leave work early, come pick her up in Westerville, take her to the beauty salon to get her hair done, and then we’d have lunch. We rotated lunch spots, but one of her favorites was Max & Erma’s simply because she liked their French Onion Soup. That would be her entire meal – one crock of soup. And we’d giggle about the stringy cheese. Isn’t it wonderful how easily food ties into our memories?
Over the last few years I’ve had a new favorite onion soup adapted from a recipe by The Two Fat Ladies (seriously love them). It was English Onion Soup – and instead of having cheese melted on top, there’s a hunk of Stilton Bleu Cheese crumbled and melted into the soup. It adds amazing flavor to the dish. This time, however, I tried a different version of an English Onion Soup. I found a recipe by Jamie Oliver and thought I’d give it a go. It intrigued me with sage as a large component of the meal – but more was the fact that the melted cheese on top is cheddar…interesting!! And on top of that – a dash of Worcestershire sauce. WHAT? Insanity – I must put it in my mouth!!
The soup itself is traditional, for the most part. Although this recipe did call for the addition of leeks, which I really liked. I traditionally used 3 different types of onions in my onion soup – white, red, and shallots. So the addition of leeks was a nice touch. Yet what made this soup different from the start was the cooking process for the onions. They aren’t just cooked, they’re slow cooked over about an hour – and you need LOTS of onions because they cook down like crazy.
I’ll make the soup with Stilton at some point this winter, I’m sure. But in the meantime, enjoy this version of English Onion Soup! This recipe does say it makes 8 servings. Or 4 BIG servings – when I make a soup it typically becomes the meal.
English Onion Soup
4 Tbl butter (Jamie Oliver calls for “a good knob of butter” – that’s my best guess!)
Handful fresh sage leaves, and 8 leaves reserved for garnish
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
5 red onions, peeled and sliced
3 large white onions, peeled and sliced
3 large shallots, peeled and sliced
3 leeks, trimmed, washed and sliced (original calls for 11 ounces of leeks)
8 cups good quality beef stock (could substitute chicken or vegetable, but why would you?)
8 slices good-quality stale bread, ¾ inch thick
7 ounces freshly grated Cheddar cheese
Put the butter and 2 glugs of olive oil into the bottom of a large, non-stick pan (I used my big stock pot). Heat them up, and add the sage (I tore the sage by hand into small pieces) and garlic. Once the oil is infused, add the onions, shallots and leeks. Season with salt and pepper, stir everything round again and place a lid over the pot that is slightly ajar to let some of the steam out. Cook slowly for 50 – 60 minutes, stirring often, without coloring the vegetables too much. [Here’s the trick – a good amount of salt added at the beginning helps to keep them from coloring. Medium low heat, and stir them every 8 – 10 minutes to keep them cooking evenly.] During the last 20 minutes of cooking, remove the lid to allow more of the moisture to cook away. The slow-cooking process for the onions gives them an “incredible sweetness and an awesome flavor, so don’t be tempted to speed this up” (says Jamie Oliver).
When the vegetables are cooked, add the stock. Bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Turn on your broiler (or oven) and toast your bread on both sides. Taste the soup – correct the seasoning as necessary. When it’s perfect, ladle it into individual serving bowls and place them on a baking dish. Tear the bread and make it fit over the soup in each bowl. Cover the bread with shredded cheddar cheese and drizzle over a little Worcestershire sauce. Into the broiler (or oven) until the cheese melts and begins to bubble.