The Plight of the Post-Doc


Ph.Dishes - French Onion Soup!

I'm taking a little break from stressing out about my future to bring you a new series, Ph.Dishes (yes, I really am that clever), in which I share with you something awesome that I just cooked, suitable for the scientist's wallet.  Tonight I made French Onion Soup, something that literally everyone in the world likes.

To make this dish, which incorporates all four food groups, you will need the following:

unsalted butter
at least 2 large Vidallia (or sweet) onions (one per person is a good estimate)
dry white wine (whatever crap someone brought to your last party is best)
beef stock (which you can make from scratch for basically no money)
leftover baguette
shredded gruyere, or fontina, or both (kinds of cheese)

1.  Cut the onions in half, and then slice them to ~1/4 inch.  Save the outer peelings in a freezer bag for future chicken or beef stock, an excellent trick I learned from my good friend LM.  Toss the onions in a large stock pot or dutch oven with as much butter as you are comfortable with, but at least 3 tablespoons if you're really serious about this.

2.  Cook the shit out of the onions on med-low heat, adding a hearty dash of kosher salt and a little white pepper and stirring only occasionally, maybe once every 5-10 min.  This is going to take at least half an hour and most likely around 45 minutes or an hour if you want them really super caramelized, so it's a good idea to make yourself a cocktail while you wait.

3.  When you can't stand it anymore and have absolutely got to move on with your life, pour some white wine into the pot, enough to cover the onions.  Turn the heat up and de-glaze the pan, stirring until the wine reduces and thickens, around 5 minutes.

4.  Add the beef stock, enough so that you are pleased with the broth-to-onions ratio, plus a little extra to account for evaporation.  Bring to a boil and turn down the heat, simmering for 15 min.  Set your oven to broil, and move a rack to the top shelf.  You may want to make yourself a salad here, so that you'll have some actual vegetables with your dinner, not just some butter-soaked onions that have had every last trace of nutrients beaten out of them.

5.  Slice your baguette ~3/4 in, but it's not like you need to break out a ruler or anything.  Also, it's totally OK if the baguette is a little stale--it's just going to soak up all that oniony goodness!  Place 2 or more ceramic bowls on a cookie sheet and pour the soup in each one, stopping when the distance between the soup surface and top edge of the bowl equals the thickness of your baguette slices.  Lay however many baguette slices are required to cover the soup on top, and then, with a heavy hand, cover everything with cheese.

6.  Slide the whole sheet into the oven, and broil until the cheese is browned and bubbly. Don't burn yourself on the rack; I did this, and I can tell you first hand--that shit is HOTTT!!!

7.  When the cheese is satisfactorily amazing-looking (trust me, you will just know), remove the cookie sheet and let the soups cool at least 15 min.  You HAVE to do this, or you will have no taste buds left at all, I swear.  Eat your salad; it will distract you.

8.  Have 15 minutes gone by?  Did you eat all your vegetables?  You're sure?  OK, dig in.  Bon Appetit!


Comrade PhysioProf said...

Awesome motherfucking recipe! However, the rule is pictures or it didn't happen.

Becca said...

Ack, you're right! It really did happen, I swear, and my arteries will back me up on this one. I promise, pictures from now on.

Anonymous said...

Sounds awesome! Thanks for the recipe...we'll have to try this one out next weekend! :)

LabMom said...

Great series idea! I also love the instructions.. that ain't your mama's "art of french cooking" since we all know that is for sissies!

LM said...

How incredibly mouthwatering! And if you don't want to babysit those onions for an hour you can pop the whole pot in the oven @ 200 degrees for a few hours and drink even more cocktails... speaking of which I think given that you are an authority on the subject, it would be a-mazing if your Ph.Dishes came with cocktail pairings!

Becca said...

Great idea, LM! We ate our soup with a variation on the Singapore Sling, though the name escapes me. It had:

Hirsch's cherry
orange bitters
seltzer (or Fresca, J's favorite!)

It was a nice refreshing counter to the rich, hot, saltiness of the soup.

pinus said...

Sounds delicious, I prefer to throw in a red onion as well to balance out the sweet onions.

I like the idea of PhDishes as well, clever!

Candid Engineer said...

Sounds fucking delicious.

I love you. :)

Becca said...

Aww... *blush*

Likewise, my dear!

Dr. No said...

I'm hungry.

Becca said...

Start slicing those onions, Dr No!

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth is a Negroni. Which is a fine fucking cocktail! I like mine very dry, so just a little bit of Campari and vermouth.

Dr. Koshary said...

Hi, Doc! I wandered my way to your blog through Acadamnit, and the recipe caught my eye right away. Will certainly try this soon, although I fear the postdoc scientist's wallet far outweighs the doctoral candidate's.

You won my admiration with "Cook the shit out of the onions," BTW.

Becca said...

Prof Koshary, welcome! I heart Dr. No. 4-eva.

And seriously? If your doctoral stipend isn't enough to buy's time for a walk-out. Or sit-in, if it's cold where you are.

Becca said...

Agreed, CPP! The Negroni is one of my absolute favorites. Pretty much anything with Campari in it is up high on my list. I found the recipe for the drink we made with our soup--I forgot like half the ingredients (and was wrong about the Campari being in it) when I wrote about it above. Here it is!

Straits Sling, ca. 1915. Fun fact: it evolved into the better-known Singapore Sling in the 1920s!

2 oz gin
1/2 oz kirsch (cherry eau-de-vie)
1/2 oz Benedictine
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes Angosturra bitters

Shake all of these things, then strain into an ice-filled Collins Glass (large, tall glass). Fill with club soda (or Fresca!) and garnish with an orange slice and a brandied cherry.

J and I made our own brandied cherries last year, using a NYT recipe as a guide. Super easy, and so delicious!

Dr. Koshary said...


*confused by new idea*

Julie @ Bunsen Burner Bakery said...

Did you know that once cooked, there is absolutely no difference in sweetness between a vidalia onion and a regular old onion? I read a fascinating article which explained exactly why this is -- what causes the breakdown once cooked -- but I don't have it saved on my lab computer. If you are eating them raw, than the vidalia has a noticeably sweeter taste, but once cooked, there is no difference. In my neck of the woods, vidalias are always more expensive, so it's a good way to save if you're a regular onion buyer.

Becca said...

Good tip, EB, thank you!

tideliar said...

Shit just seeing this! I LOVE French onion Soup and my recipe is about the same as yours, with one or two additional cocktail steps. And I concur about Step 6.

I have a fucking scar thanks to my first attempt at making this dish.

Post a Comment