It has always been a staple recipe in our house, but this year is different. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have just ended, and a new year is upon the Jewish community. I was not raised kosher. I never intended to live that way. But as I have gotten older and wiser, I find myself wanting to adopt a more kosher lifestyle, and have been taking small steps to bring myself in line. This year, one of my New Year resolutions is to take bigger steps. I will buy kosher meat whenever I can find it. Neither pork nor seafood can enter my oven. I will not cook milk with meat. And I will do all of this consistently and with conscious diligence.
But that onion soup beckoned....
My mouth watered at the thought of it as I walked home past the leaves just turning, the last rays of sun peeking through the late afternoon sky. To my mind, french onion soup evens looks like autumn; the yellow of the onions, deep reddish brown of the broth. Mmmm, so yummy, so cold outside, so...wake up dummy!!! No milk with meat. There had to be a way to reconcile my resolution with my appetite. I thought about soy cheese, but am generally opposed to faking real ingredients. I don't make Passover cookies with matzo meal cake flour; I'd rather have meringues. What was an earnest girl to do?
Coincidentally, I recently ordered a used copy of an out of print cookbook by one of my favorite authors, Rozanne Gold. Every once in a while she still pops up in Bon Appetit, but seems largely (and sadly) out of the mainstream these days. I have several of her other books, but wanted to treat myself for the new year and purchased Recipes 1-2-3. Her premise is simple; no more than 3 ingredients in any given recipe (exceptions: water, salt, pepper). Not that her recipes are easy; rather they are adventures in the spare, yielding luscious results with what seems like very little.
As I glanced through my book on that first cold day, I found the answer; Red Wine French Onion Soup. This ingenious technique replaces beef broth with a wine based, white pepper infused, buttery broth that is rich, delicious and completely dairy.
Here's the original recipe. I have modified it slightly, but kept to its spirit. Enjoy, and please send me any tips you have as I move forward with my kosher efforts.
Red Wine Onion Soup
2 lbs sweet onions
3 medium leeks
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp sugar
1 cup red wine (she recommends cabernet sauvignon, or other like full bodied wine)
6 cups of water
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
6 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
French bread, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
- Peel and halve the onions. Slice thinly, about 1/8 of an inch (this works best if you use a mandoline or the slicing disk attachment on your food processor).
- Rinse leeks. Select the white part and chop finely. Discard greens.
- Melt butter on medium heat using a large cast iron or stainless steel pot with a lid. Add onions. After 15 minutes, add the sugar and the leeks. Continue stirring for another 20 - 25 minutes. Scrape brown pieces with a wooden spoon. The onions are ready when they are a deep yellow/brown color.
- Add wine and cook until most of the liquid is evaporated, about 10 minutes. Continue stirring throughout.
- Add water, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil, cover, lower heat, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove 2 cups of soup and blend. Return liquid to pot. OR, use your immersion blender directly in the pot - pulse 10 times. Cook for 10 more minutes.
- Turn on the broiler. Place ceramic crocks on a foil lined, rimmed baking sheet. Fill each ceramic crock with soup. Add 2 - 3 croutons and 1 oz of cheese to each bowl. Broil on a top rack for 2 - 5 minutes, until the cheese is golden brown. Serve.