The wind was blowing, leaves were falling, and all I could think was “Man, I have got to get me some french onion soup.” This time of year always makes me crave comfort, and for me french onion soup is comfort incarnate. I love the sweetness of the onions, the smooth melted cheese, and the delicious beef broth that warms me from head to toe instantly, even on the chilliest afternoons.
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*
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.
* She recommends cabernet sauvignon, or other like full bodied wine. Click to view the Jew and the Carrot’s kosher, sustainable wine list.
** If you are not Reform or Conservative and require a kosher cheese, please review the Jew and the Carrot’s kosher, sustainable cheese list as well as kosher.com‘s cheese list. Your best bet is to substitute swiss cheese for the gruyere.