My eyes were red and swollen. The more I rubbed them with the back of my hands the more tears started flowing out. Why did I put myself through all this? I grabbed a tissue and wiped the remaining tears away then continued with the horrible task in front of me.
This is what it was like to cut 2kgs of onions to make my onion soup the other day. Whenever my brother begged me to make onion soup for him, I’d reject his idea without a second thought. Cutting onions is my pet peeve around the kitchen as I’m very prone to tearing up from the onion juices (like most people I’m sure). This is the only time I wish I wore contacts, although this wasn’t feasible as I’m not shortsighted.
When my parents asked me to make it for a family dinner last week, I finally gave in. Rather than doing 2kgs of onions by myself, I had Yuye help out with the task which made it a lot faster and the tears were shared to his dismay (it’s his own fault though as he wore glasses instead of contacts, why would he do that right?)
I’m always terrible at preparing for large parties because I always end up frolicking around and chatting to people rather than concentrating on the food. In the end Yuye always had to do most of the cooking and I get told off afterwards. This time it wasn’t any different. As my family friends arrived, I couldn’t help but show off the smoked salt and gruyere cheese we had purchased and while I was smiling and chatting away, Yuye was slaving in the kitchen, making steaks for everyone. I don’t know how he puts up with me sometimes…
I made most of the onion soup though and that took a long time, stirring constantly to get the onions caramelised. If you want to make this soup, it’s better to prepare a little before it’s needed so there’s enough time to caramelise and cook the soup down for the right flavours and consistency.
I do LOVE the French onion soup though, I always used to order it when I was addicted to dining at French restaurants and making it at home prompts me to think of all the hard work put into the preparations and how an aspiring young chef to be might have been slaving away for hours cutting those onions…
On a side note, Yuye and I actually bought a fantastic aged Swiss gruyere from Simon Johnson at about $25 for 250g and right afterwards, we saw very cheap (and obviously not as good) gruyere at the grocery store, at only $10 for 250g. An idea popped into my head. Since my parents can’t tell the difference between good and bad cheese, why would I waste the fantastic variety? So, I bought and used the cheap cheese for dinner and kept the Simon Johnson one for myself.
French onion soup
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour
• 2kgs brown onions, thinly sliced
• 4tbsp sugar
• 3 sprigs of thyme
• 120g unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup brandy or red wine
• 200g sliced or grated gruyere cheese
• 5 cups of beef stock (or 1.2 litres)
• 6 – 8 slices of baguette (depending on serves)
• Salt & pepper to taste
• 2 tbsp plain flour (optional)
1. Melt butter in a large saucepan on low to medium heat and add in onions and sugar.
2. Caramelise by stirring constantly (or every couple of minutes) until onions are browned and caramelised. This takes roughly 50 minutes.
3. If you like your soup a bit thicker, add in flour now and stir for roughly 1 minute.
4. Add in beef stock (or water and condensed stock cubes according to packet instructions), thyme and brandy (or red wine) and cook for 15 minutes, tasting and adding more water/salt as you prefer.
5. While the soup is cooking, preheat oven to 180C. Place gruyere on top of each baguette pieces and grill in the oven for roughly 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the bread is crispy.
6. Serve soup in a bowl topped with a piece of baguette.
Alternatively, you can place the cooked soup in an oven proof bowl, top with toasted baguette (without the cheese) and top baguette with grated/sliced gruyere cheese, then bake in the oven until the cheese is melted. I didn’t do this as this process takes longer and makes the bread soggy before serving.
Question time: What’s your pet peeve in the kitchen? Do you often cook for big family gatherings?