THERE'S STRENGTH IN ONIONS
MANILA, JUNE 20, 2008 (STAR) EAT’S EASY By Ernest Reynoso Gala - “The onion and its satin wrappings is among the most beautiful of vegetables and is the only one that represents the essence of things. It can be said to have a soul.” — Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden (1871)
Onion soup has been around for a long time, dating back to the medieval times where it was eaten for medicinal purposes. Onion itself was an important commodity, used for magical rites and considered as a basis of wealth by the Egyptians. Soupe à l’Oignon or French onion soup was a crowd favorite among Parisians, who dined and wined until the wee hours of the night, gathering at the famed Les Halles, a traditional central marketplace in Paris. After a night of celebration, restaurants would serve hot bowls of soup to help sober up, reviving guests to their senses. This practice soon became a tradition, and leftover hard bread and Gruyère cheese were used and dunked into the soup for a more complete meal. Traditionally, this soup was based on meat stock, though in other parts of the country there are different variations. In Normandy milk replaced stock, while in Landes, Béchamel or white sauce was added to top the bread. Cordon Bleu chefs would combine egg yolks, cream and old Madeira wine and place it under the cheese just before baking in the oven.
To start, butter is melted in a pan and white onions are cut into strips and added together until the onions have softened and caramelized. In many cookbooks, this process is called “sweating.” White onions are used to make onion soup because it has a higher sugar content compared to red onions, giving a natural sweet flavor. After the onions have softened, stock, salt and pepper are added and brought to a boil and simmered for 20 minutes. White wine and extra sugar is sometimes added though this is optional. Soup is then placed in a bowl, topped with sliced baguettes (French bread) and cheese and put in the oven for another 10 minutes to allow the cheese to naturally melt. In some restaurants the cheese is torched to speed up the process.
French onion Soup
1) 4 cups white onions (sliced thinly), 1/2 cup magnolia gold butter, 8 cups water, 4 beef cubes, 1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1 cup grated Gruyère or Mozzarella or Quickmelt cheese, 1 baguette (sliced into 1/2 inch pieces)
2) Procedure: In a large pan, melt butter and add sliced white onions and allow to cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Stir once in a while so as to not burn the onions and butter. Add water, beef cubes, salt and pepper. Stir a while. Lower heat when soup begins to boil and time 20 minutes covered. Transfer to soup bowls, top with sliced bread and cheese, put in preheated 350º F or 175º C oven for 10 minutes. Serves 4.
3) Note: 1 tbsp. white sugar can be added with onions and 1/2 cup white wine can be added to stock for more flavor.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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