9.29.2011

It's soup season

Autumn.  It's my absolute favorite.  I love everything about it.  Every year I find myself begging Autumn to stick around for a while.  I missed fall altogether last year.  I was sweltering in the stagnant heat of Rio de Janeiro, trying to imagine what jeans and a sweater felt like.  My mom sent me a package of fall-scented candles, a journal, and a collection of fall leaves that had consequently molded en route from Chi-town to Rio.  So this year autumn is that much sweeter.

Sometimes autumn catches me by surprise, and I wonder what happened to summer. Then suddenly we are talking about "the holidays."  Stop.  The holidays will be here before you know it so just let live and enjoy all that is October.

I had my first pumpkin spice latte (don't judge me or my addiction) with my dear friend Sam while visiting in Alaska.  And I am taking full advantage of all the lovely fall produce at our farmer's market.  Already indulged in a jug of cider, honeycrisp apples, and there's an acorn squash on the counter begging to be roasted with a sprig of rosemary.

I love autumn harvest.  It is the simple, earthy, and unsophisticated food that is my favorite.  I have begun to live and eat much more in tune with the seasons, and therefore, have learned to love fruits and vegetables within their natural season of growth.  Eating and living this way will change the way you think about food and that first July tomato will be sweeter than ever.  

I went up to my sister's last week on my day off - to catch up and cook together.  We settled on a lovely little French Onion Soup recipe I found in the newspaper that is simple, hearty, and the perfect dish for a crisp fall evening.  We used sweet yellow onions and a Sam Adams Octoberfest beer to deglaze the pan - the beer gives your onions such amazing flavor. Also, we settled on vegetable stock over beef (vegetarian) and it was delicious, but I'm sure beef stock would have even more flavor.  We used a blend of cheeses - a sharp white cheddar and Asiago.  This recipe is easily adaptable for any number of people but beware, once you start caramelizing those onions, your neighbors will come calling!


FRENCH ONION SOUP
Makes 1 gallon

3 pounds onions, thinly sliced
2 ounces butter
12 ounces dark beer
1 gallon beef or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
Toasted baguette slices
1 1/4 pounds Gruyere or Asiago cheese, grated

In a large stock pot, sweat onions in butter over medium-low heat until they turn golden brown, watching so they don't burn.  This will take some time, but don't rush it, otherwise the onions will be bitter (he's right, it takes some time - don't underestimate the power of properly caramelized onions and allow plenty of time for the onions to do their thing). While your onions are sweating, slice and toast your baguette in the oven for a few minutes.

Deglaze pan with beer, turn up heat and cook until beer is reduced by half.  Add stock, bring soup to simmer and cook until onions are tender.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper (remember your cheese can be quite salty so easy on the salt).  

Portion soup out into ramekins or other oven-safe bowls.  Garnish each portion with toasted baguette slices.  Top generously with cheese and brown under a broiler.

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