If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve probably noticed that our Friday night dinners at home usually feature something meaty – a steak, pork chops, that sort of thing. But as last week drew to a close, we still weren’t sure what Mike’s work schedule was going to look like. He’s been in a crunch period and has been working heavy overtime for the last couple of months now, but there was a possibility that if he and his coworkers could push through and finish up what they needed to on Friday evening, they wouldn’t have to work another Saturday. As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened – I got my husband back, and we could look forward to a relaxing weekend.
Since things were still up in the air as of Thursday night, I had planned something pretty simple for Friday dinner – a big pot of onion soup that could simmer away as long as necessary, and bitter greens salad with sherry vinaigrette and poached egg. Onion soup is the very first thing I taught myself to cook when I was around 11 or 12 years old, and the recipe has definitely grown with me. My current version uses a mixture of both beef and chicken stock, a healthy splash of brandy, and loads of sweet red onions. While my younger self loved to blanket crocks of onion soup in a heavy layer of cheese, I prefer a lighter take these days – a toasted slice of good sourdough bread, topped with a judicious amount of finely grated cave-aged Gruyere and popped into the oven or broiler until golden.
We did get our steak dinner this weekend, but we decided to let someone else do the cooking (and the clean-up). After all, we had cause to celebrate, and now that our lives and schedules are getting back to normal, we’ll have plenty of opportunity for dinners at home.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium red onions, peeled, halved and sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 oz. brandy
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon dried marjoram
Heat butter and oil in a deep, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onions, season with salt, toss them to coat with the butter/oil mixture, and allow them to cook until very soft – 20 minutes or so. Move the onions aside to clear a spot on the bottom of the pan and add tomato paste, allowing it to cook in the hot spot for a minute or two before stirring it through the onions. Carefully pour in the brandy and let it bubble away for a few minutes before adding the chicken and beef stocks, bay leaf and marjoram. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes, tasting and adjusting the seasonings as necessary.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls or crocks and top with toasted Gruyere croutons or your favorite bread/cheese combination.