Cold, snow, ice. I had a whole day to cook, because I sure wasn’t going out in that stuff. I needed to go to the market, though, because we didn’t have much in the way of fresh fruit or veggies. But I decided that tomorrow is another day (as they say where I come from).
So I looked in the fridge, and I had a chicken carcass from one I had roasted a couple of days before. By now, Dan is well trained to put the bones back in the dish so that I can use them to make stock. I had the complete chicken in there. If the paleontologists come, they can create a replica of a chicken from these bones. Well, minus the head. And the feet.
Where was I? Oh, yes, trying to find something warming to cook. What I really wanted was a big steaming bowl of dark, rich onion soup, complete with a toasted crouton and melted cheese oozing over it. The problem was that I had no beef stock. All I had was chicken. And some onions. And some bread. And some cheese. Hmmm...(if I had had a beard I would have stroked it here)...I thought, can I make onion soup without beef stock? Can I make it with chicken stock? Well, of course I CAN, but will it be any good?
The answer is an unequivocal YES. I made the chicken stock and then made the onion soup in the normal way, but substituted white wine for the red and chicken stock for the beef stock. Not the traditional way, but it was really really good. The flavor was lighter, with a different kind of depth than the traditional soup. I’ll make it again. Because the color and the flavor were lighter than the traditional onion soup, I called it “white”. Also because “chicken onion soup” would have sounded like the onion was a coward, which wasn’t true. At least I don’t think so.
Because I had time on my hands while I waited for the onions to brown slo-oo-owly, I made some fancy pants croutons. That was almost as much fun as the soup, and I think that they made the soup taste better.
This is not expensive food, but it is food for someone who has time to spend with it, since a large part of the flavor depends on the quality of your stock. You can use canned stock if you need to--it’ll still be good, I think. I don’t see why you couldn’t even use vegetable stock for a vegetarian version, which would be even lighter. But there’s no hurrying the onions--they need to cook long and slow to develop their flavor.
I thought this would make more, but in the end it was enough for just two.
White Onion Soup
3 medium onions
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 heaping teaspoon flour
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper
2-3 cups chicken stock
2 slices bread
1/2 cup grated swiss cheese
- Cut the onions in half, peel them, and slice them thinly.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onions.
- Cook over medium low heat till light to medium brown and caramelized. This can take up to an hour, so be prepared to wait. Don’t rush this step--this is an important part of the flavor of the soup. Once they start to brown, though, they go pretty quickly so don’t leave them too long at that point.
- When the onions are browned, add the flour and stir to mix it well. Keep stirring to cook the flour for a minute or two.
- Add the wine stir well, and cook over medium heat till the wine is evaporated.
- Add the chicken stock, stir well and heat through.
- Meanwhile, toast your bread. If it’s larger than your bowls, cut it so that it will fit inside. Put the cheese on the bread and run it under the grill to melt the cheese.
- Ladle the soup into the bowls, top with the croutons and any leftover cheese. Enjoy.
Enough for 2
- I used Gruyere cheese, which is what I had. Emmenthal or any Swiss-type of cheese would do just as well.
- The traditional way to do the bread and cheese is to put them both on top of the soup and put the bowls under the grill to melt the cheese. I don’t do that because my bowls get too hot that way, and because I always spill the soup trying to take the hot bowls out of the oven. You might not be as clumsy as I am.
- If you decide to make fancy pants croutons like I did, I think you need a really strong bread. I used a sourdough rye which was even a little stale. It was maybe a little TOO hard to cut, but the flavor stood up to the soup well. I toasted the little stars in the oven and then put them on a baking sheet with the cheese over them. VOILA! I love stars.
- I also had some shredded chicken from the carcass that I threw in at the last minute. TOTALLY untraditional, but you might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, eh? Next time I think I’ll leave it out, though.
- Note to self: When photographing hot soup from directly above, wait till it's stopped steaming.