Early in my junior year of college I introduced two of my friends at a game night. They became running buddies, and over their many runs together they fell in love. He, Ian, lived across the hall from me, so we, along with my roommate, spent a lot of time together. I watched their love bloom, and then I watched it take what I feared would be an ending hit. She, Jo, studied abroad in Belgium, and he moved to Montreal to transfer schools. Despite this distance (which I know from personal experience can be a relationship killer), these two are still together. A year and a half later, two valentine’s days later, a dozen trips to Belgium, DC, and Montreal later, and they’re still together. They’re still happy. This past year, my senior year, Ian came from Montreal to stay for a week. It was wonderful for me as a friend because I hadn’t seen him in nearly a year, but it was even more wonderful as a friend to watch them together. The simple little ways that love shows itself between two people. The little touches, the unconscious gestures, the way they looked at each other, and spoke in half sentences because each knew what the other was thinking. When he came to visit Ian and Jo had a little dinner party and Ian made simple French Onion soup. It was divine.
So when I decided to challenge myself with a soup I’d never tried before, I knew exactly what soup to make. As I caramelized my onions, I was transported back to my friend’s small apartment, her tiny dining room table, and the wine and conversation that flowed. The smell of the soup wrapped me in the same feeling I got with my friends. Happiness because they were happy, pride because I had introduced them, and love, because sometimes friends make the best family. Whenever I make this soup I’m going to be enveloped in the feeling of being with friends, especially a friend I don’t see often, and a family I made for myself.
Onions (I used some red and some white)
Vegetable Broth (or stock and water)
Start by chopping your onions. I used several slices of each onion, one red and one white. I know lots of people don’t like to mix their onions, but I prefer the mixed flavors. Let the onion flavors mingle. They’ll give you deliciousness if you give them freedom. Also, try not to cry while chopping these onions because if you do, you’ll walk out of the kitchen and your family will be very concerned for your mental health; I mean, really, you’ll have just walked out of the kitchen, after being silent in there except for camera flashes and knife chops, with tears on your face and in your eyes. It’s awkward. Once you have your onion chopped, toss it into a pan with some olive oil. Saute them on medium heat until they’re brown and the smell is overwhelming. If you didn’t chop enough, add more.
While your onions are sauteeing, which will take a fair few minutes, get a pot and your vegetable broth. If you’re using stock, get stock and a cup or so of water. Both broth and stock usually come in 32 oz containers, so we’ll use 32 oz as a guide. Throw that broth/stock-water in the pot, and set it to simmer. Give those guys some time, and use that time to do something for yourself. I cleaned out the bottom of my fridge. It was nasty.
Once the onions are sauteed, pop them into the pot with the broth/stock-water. Turn the heat up some to a medium high. Now, rip up some swiss cheese. I used pre-sliced swiss cheese and just ripped it into shreds. You could also use a block and shred it or slice it from the narrow end. About ⅓ of your swiss cheese should go into the pot. Save the other ⅔ so that you can put it on your cooked soup when it’s done, it will be delicious.
Let it all cook for something like 20 minutes. To be honest, I rarely time anything I cook, I just go until I can’t stand to wait anymore. Sometimes this results in delicious perfectly timed soup; sometimes this results in undercooked pasta with still-chilly peas. Life is an adventure.
When you get your soup cooked and cooled enough to eat, ladle some into a bowl, add some Swiss cheese shreds, and nom at will. The cheese you added before will have melted and spread flavor, leaving just some small balls of cheese that wouldn’t melt. This soup is excellent with Italian Bread like the kind I wrote about last week, but would also be delicious in a bread bowl. Tell me what you have with your soup in this cold, cold winter.