For me, life without friends to hang out with, eat together, share life events and life changes is like girls without chocolate. There is nothing like having folks over that you have common interests with, sharing a home cooked meal, laughing our heads off and planning the next meal. I love the energy it brings into our home. While I love eating and being inspired by other people’s cooking, I do truly enjoy cooking meals and trying new ideas. It’s really like therapy for me. The only rule I have is everyone must at least try all things, and if you don’t like it, that’s OK, I’m not offended. Not everyone is going to like everything I make. Ask my husband.
We had exactly that this weekend and I’m ready to plan the next one! For this evening, my menu was as follows: Dried Beef and Mushroom Spread with crusty baguette, French Onion Soup, Spinach Salad, Chicken Pot Pie and Fudge Pie. I have already posted the Fudge Pie, so the link is attached. Just click on that link and it will take you there. For the next few posts, I’m going to share the other recipes. As I do, I will attach the links to this post. So come back and visit!
When I plan a menu, I do not put together dishes that all need to be prepared at the last minute. That’s too much to do all at once. So I pick things that can be done a day ahead of time, plus things that can be done early on and left for simmering while focusing on something that needs to be prepared at the last minute.
I thought I would start with a favorite winter soup of mine. This is something I have made for years and over time tweaked it here and there. I have always associated French Onion Soup with melted Mozzarella cheese on top. In this recipe, I ramped it up a bit and used Swiss cheese and Mozzarella cheese. It took it to a new level of cheesy deliciousness! The great thing about this soup is, I made it earlier in the day and assembled it at the last minute for the melting of the cheeses. I really like to pick a menu that I can spread out over time. You could really make the soup part a day ahead of time and put it in the refrigerator. Then the day of the dinner, just reheat to soup and ladle it into the bowls with cheeses. So simple. Dinner parties are not meant to be stressful and with good planning, it doesn’t have to be.
Here’s how I make it.
French Onion Soup
For French Onion Soup, I prefer to use sweet onions or yellow onions. Slice up a couple of large onions to make about 4 cups.
In a large pot, over medium-low heat, cook the onions in olive oil until the onions are super tender, stirring often. This will take a little while, about 15 minutes.
I cook it low and slow so it doesn’t get that “fried” look to it. Mine will turn a golden color.
Pour in the sherry cooking wine and bring it to a boil to burn off the alcohol. This is found in the grocery store section where you’ll also find the vinegar. Usually on the top shelf. This is one of those pantry items I always have on hand.
If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you know I don’t keep a lot of canned beef or chicken broth. I prefer to keep beef base and chicken base in the refrigerator and add it to water to make a super rich stock. The flavors are much deeper than the canned. So for this recipe, I made my beef stock by adding 6 teaspoons of beef base to 6 cups of hot water. Stir to dissolve the base.
Pour the beef stock in with the tender onions and stir.
Bring to a rolling boil, then turn down to low and let simmer about 15 minutes.
This is one of those dishes that I’ll make earlier in the day, cover it and let stay warm on the stove until I’m ready to do the assembly of croutons and cheeses in my cute oven safe soup bowls.
My favorite cheeses to use in French Onion Soup are Mozzarella and Swiss. I had a block of Mozzarella and cut 3 slices per bowl, about 1/8 ” thick. (or 1/4 cup shredded) These bowls are going to go into the oven under a broiler. Even though it’s just for a minute to melt the cheese, you’ll still want to make sure you’re using oven safe bowls for this. Mine hold 12 ounces to the top.
Then I ladled the hot soup mixture leaving 1/2″-3/4″ head room at the top for the croutons and Swiss cheese.
Add a single layer of seasoned croutons. There are lots of flavors out there, but I tend to use the basic ‘seasoned’ ones.
Put 1-2 slices of deli cut Swiss cheese on top. I was in a cheesy mood and did two. I just love cheese.
Place all of the oven safe soup bowls on a baking sheet and place under the broiler. Watch CLOSELY to melt the cheese. This only takes a few seconds or maybe a minute.
That, folks, is how I make my French Onion Soup. Now I’m ready for another bowl! So rich and satisfying on a cold winter day. I believe we’re predicted to get some snow this week… I think I should make the soup mixture and put it in the refrigerator. When I get home from work, all I’ll have to do is heat it up, assemble it and broil the cheese on top. How easy is that for a weeknight dish? OK, off to the kitchen! Oh, I plan to post my Chicken Pot Pie next. See you Wednesday!
What is your favorite winter soup?
Here’s the printer friendly recipe.