Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Onion Goggles

My grandmother used to wear “Onion Goggles.” This is not the same as beer goggles, although actual visibility may be just as impaired by either. No, Onion Goggles were the science lab type of eyewear protection my grandmother would wear while chopping onions. I only remember her wearing them sometimes and I can’t tell you what she was making while wearing them, but I am guessing anything with a lot of onions.
I used to love that she had onion goggles, and I would wonder why we did not have onion goggles at home for all of our onion chopping needs. During the holidays I could stand in the kitchen and watch her cook. She would pull out the onions, open her kitchen drawer, don the goggles and get to work. My eyes would always tear up, and she would tell me that I needed a pair of onion goggles. I’m not sure if I ever was given a pair, but hopefully there is a picture somewhere of my grandmother and me wearing our onion goggles standing at the kitchen counter.
I too have enlisted the help of eye protection occasionally when cutting onions. If the amount is small enough I will tough it out and have myself a good cry. But when I am cutting a lot of onions, I may bust out some old swim goggles and strap them to my head. I must say, that swim goggles are not the ideal goggles to use on dry land. My goggles constantly fog up, and make it extremely dangerous to continue chopping.

When we were living in California, I had offered to make the stuffing for a large family style Thanksgiving meal at the bakery I worked at. This meant stuffing for about 120 people. And if you remember how I have a problem gauging how much food to make – it will come as no surprise that I made waaaay too much stuffing. Plus, working at the bakery gave me access to all the different types of bread I could ever want in a stuffing. At any rate, I made about 40 pounds of stuffing. Which of course called for about 10 pounds of onions.
When chopping 10 pounds of onions you really do need eyewear protection. I tried everything else – freezing the onions, cutting them under water (which is a surefire way to cut yourself and make it look like a scene from Jaws in your kitchen sink), lighting a match and so on, but goggles are simply the best. And the reason I am mentioning this now, is not for a recipe on stuffing (although I may do that later) but for onion soup.

For a good onion soup, you really need to cut a lot of onions. I will give you a recipe that calls for a certain number of onions, but the goal here is to force other people out of the kitchen with the huge amounts of noxious onion gas you will be unleashing. Or better yet, if the people in another room of your house, have to leave or open a window – you know you have cut the appropriate amount for a good soup.
To me, French onion soup is a great, simple meal that is best on a cold and damp day. I have had onion soups from powdered mixes, cans, and restaurants. I have had soup with bread, no bread, gruyere cheese, swiss cheese and mozzarella cheese. And I like them all. The following recipe combines a couple of techniques which make it less labor intensive and creates a wonderful aroma that will push out the stinging bite of raw onions left hovering in your living room.

Many Onion Soup
I like using different types of onions in this. Traditional brown or yellow onions are a great base of flavor and can be supplemented with other kinds – red, cippolini, white, etc. You can use some sweet onions, but I do not recommend using a lot. Since the onions will be caramelized, the sweeter the onion to start the blander it will become once it is cooked.

3 pounds assorted cooking onions, cut in half and sliced
2 Tb. olive oil
3 Tb. Butter
1 tsp. dried thyme
½ c. sherry
2 c. Beef broth/stock
Salt and Pepper to taste (the salt really helps heighten the flavor here)

Sliced French Bread
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 ½ c. grated gruyere cheese

Preheat the oven to 425°. Place the olive oil into the bottom of a large heavy bottomed pot, and toss in onions. It will look like a lot of onions. Dot the onions with the butter, and bake uncovered for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pull the pot out of the oven, and place over medium heat. Stir occasionally, scraping up any brown bits that may appear. This will speed up the caramelization process. Then add the thyme, a dash of salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Add the cooking sherry and boil rapidly to boil off the alcohol. Next, add the beef broth and bring to a simmer. If your soup is a little light in color, feel free to cheat and use some gravy master – it won’t change the flavor at all. Taste for seasonings.

Meanwhile, toast your slices of French bread in the oven. Once slightly browned, rub the garlic clove over the bread.

Ladle the onion soup into individual, oven proof bowels, and place a slice or two of the French bread on top. Cover the whole bowl with grated cheese. Repeat for the next bowls. Place the bowls on a baking sheet and place under the broiler until the cheese is melted and slightly brown, a few moments only.

Pull from the oven, and serve.

Makes 3-4 servings

1 comment:

  1. I've never tried/liked onion soup, but this sounds great.


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