I spent last Saturday with my sister for our birthday, and we squeezed all the fun we could out of it. The day had everything the twins love: shopping, massages, sushi, live music, karaoke and a midnight meal.
It’s very important for both of us that we get to spend some time alone together on our birthday. It’s time for us to check in with each other and to reflect on the past year with the context of our lifetime. We retold funny stories about adolescent mischief (we have a knack for finding trouble together) and laughed at our close calls and silly mistakes of the past. Twin birthday is not a time for heavy conversation, but a time to revel in our perpetual internal youth because, in my mind’s eye, we are forever 19 together.
When we first lived as adults together, we were terrible cooks, and ate the way I imagine most college kids do. We lived on things like ramen and canned tuna and protein shakes for breakfast, but one thing we did know how to make was French onion soup. We wouldn’t always have the Gruyere or baguette (stale sandwich bread for the crouton was usually the best we could do), but a steaming bowl of soup at the end of our long days of full-time class and work more than satisfied.
French Onion Soup
5 large white onions
8 cups high quality beef stock (about 2 quarts)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine (optional) If omitting, add 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar to the broth instead.
3 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups fresh grated Gruyere cheese
French bread (a day-old baguette is perfect) sliced into ½ inch slices
Salt and black pepper to taste
Slice your onions in half from top to stem, then slice thinly from pole to pole (not across the equator). This is important for the onions to maintain their structure while cooking.
Place them in a dry, large soup pot and put them over medium heat.
Allow them to cook, stirring often, until all the water has seeped out and cooked off, and the onions have turned deep brown and soft. This caramelization process takes 45 minutes to an hour to do properly.
While the onions are caramelizing, pour your stock into a separate pot, add the bay leaves, soy sauce, and minced garlic, and set over low heat. If you are using store bought beef stock, I suggest enhancing it by adding a peeled carrot and three whole cloves. These will need to be strained out before adding to the onions but will add a lot of depth to the broth.
When the onions are fully caramelized, there should be a layer of brown fond stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the butter and stir to coat the onions. Then add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 3 minutes.
If you’re using wine, now is the time to add it to the onions. Scrape the bottom of the pan to lift the fond off. If you’re omitting wine, add a cup of the beef stock to deglaze instead.
Strain the broth through a fine meshed strainer and add to the pot. Taste and season with salt, black pepper, and possibly extra balsamic vinegar to taste.
Bring up to a simmer then turn off the heat.
Portion the soup out into oven safe bowls, then place the sliced bread on top of the soup, cover with cheese, and place under a broiler until golden brown and bubbly.
If you do not have oven safe bowls, line your bread slices on a baking tray, cover with cheese, then place under the broiler. Place the cheesy croutons on top of your portioned soup and serve.