Saturday, November 10, 2012

In The Soup And With The Soup

Here in the North Carolina Piedmont, we are blessed with four seasons, none of them too severe. The summers can get hot, but the record breaking inferno days aren’t all that remarkably bad, or thankfully, that numerous. In the winter, we might get a light dusting of snow, but it doesn’t hang around long enough for us to get the blues about it. So naturally, as the seasons change, the leaves turn, and the temperatures drop, the grill begins to see less and less use, and the soup pot really gets to work.

Last night we had one of our favorites, Julia Child’s French Onion soup. The recipe calls for a cup of red or white wine, but it being a beef stock based soup, it seems natural to me to use red. Now, here at Chateau Gilbert, the very idea of opening a bottle of wine to cook with and leaving the rest unconsumed is heretical. So, what to use, what to drink? Well, French Onion soup… French wine, of course! A quick scan of the wine rack revealed our man: a bottle of 2010 Chateau Roques Mauriac.

This is a great little bottle that clocks in at 14.99 from Total Wine. Composed of 50% Cab Franc, 40% Merlot, and just 10% Cab Sav, this is an approachable, ready to drink Bordeaux.   Good notes of dark fruit, just a touch of acidity, and tannins that give you a firm handshake, but don’t overpower. As it opens, the fruit notes really begin to reveal themselves, and the tannins soften. This isn’t your big, powerful, austere Bordeaux requiring a decade in the cellar; it’s made to be drank young, and enjoyed, not fussed over. I could recommend this wine for any of your hearty beef dishes or to anyone who likes a more fruit forward West Coast Cab. And the price definitely puts it in the realm of the everyday drinker.

It went fabulously with the French Onion Soup.  Click through for the recipe for French Onion Soup, adapted from Julia Child:

3 TBS butter
3 TBS flour
1 TBS olive oil
8 cups beef stock, the richer the better
about 5 - 6 yellow onions
1 cup good red wine (I use red, but The Julia suggests red or white)
1 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dry sage
salt and pepper to taste
Thick slices of good bread

Swiss or Gruyere cheese, but mozz or jack will also work

I make this in the Dutch oven, but any heavy bottom saucepan will work.

Prep: slice onions thinly

Melt butter and oil, add onions. Stir until onions are covered with butter.
Cover and cook on moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are tender and translucent (about 15-20 minutes)
Raise heat to moderately high and stir in salt and sugar. (Sugar will help caramelize onions)
Stir frequently until onions are a deep golden brown (this may take awhile, about 25 min)
Lower heat to moderate and stir in flour (add a bit more butter if flour doesn't absorb into a paste with the onions)
Stir for about 2 minutes to brown the flour lightly, remove from heat
Pour in about a cup of stock and stir to blend flour and stock.
Pour in the rest of the stock, wine, bay leaf and sage.
Put back on heat and bring to simmer.
Simmer slowly for 30 - 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Towards the end, I turn the oven on broil. Scoop soup into bowls, put toasted bread on top and cover generously with cheese. Put under broiler until cheese bubbles and browns. Eat.

This recipe makes about 6 - 8 servings. If it is just the two of us, I cut it in half.

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