How many times have you had a cold, and someone offered to make you chicken soup? While it may not be approved as a cure by the FDA, I’m pretty sure that soup has healing properties. This week I’m battling a cold, and while I didn’t make chicken soup, I did make two different and very satisfying soups that I’d like to share.
One of my goals this month was to make a really good French onion soup. I’ve had some at restaurants that was really good, and others that were very disappointing. Sometimes it’s too salty or greasy; other times there’s too much or too little cheese.
So I went into this project thinking that French onion was really difficult to make. I found a recipe for Rich and Simple French Onion Soup on AllRecipes.com that I wanted to try, as it seemed fairly straightforward. Some recipes online recommended red onions, but this recipe didn’t specify which kind to use. I like the sweetness of yellow onions the best, so that’s what I chose.
For a change, I actually had all of the correct ingredients, though I don’t usually have sherry around (which is optional). My boyfriend picked up a small bottle of dry Marsala instead, which was recommended by a sales associate at the liquor store. Once the onions had sufficiently cooked down, I thought the taste of the beef broth seasoned with thyme, plus a little salt and pepper, was absolutely delicious.
We have perfect bowls for French onion soup, and they were just the right size for two side-by-side slices of French bread, and absolutely the right size for the round sliced provolone from the grocery store.
I’m a little scared of my broiler and don’t use it often. After moving the top rack close to the broiler, I set the broiler to low. When I put the cookie tray with the bowls of soup in the oven, it only took about three minutes before it was done (I’m not a fan of overly browned cheese).
The results were very satisfying. Both the taste and the aroma were wonderful. The onions had cooked long enough to be very tender and sweet, and the combination of the three cheeses (provolone, Swiss, freshly grated Parmesan) was soooo good, and just stretchy enough to be enjoyable. The cheese provided the perfect counterpoint to the rich – but not salty! – broth. I just couldn’t get enough of it. Fortunately, we got another three servings out of this batch. The hot, steaming onion broth was so good to smell, and it really eased my sore throat and congestion!
The second soup I tried was one that I could make easily in my crock pot. I had red lentils left over from last week’s Indian Mulligatawny Soup, so I found a recipe using lentils and ham that would cook on low for several hours, also on AllRecipes.com. In fact, the recipe said 11 hours on low, which seemed like an awkwardly long time (I’d have to start cooking pretty early in the morning if I wanted to dine by around 6:00). Many reviewers commented that the cooking time was too long, so I took heart in that, and also prepared to switch it to high if the lentils weren’t cooking enough by the late afternoon.
One other reviewer had commented that her husband didn’t think it had enough flavor, so I kept that in mind as I prepared the first ingredients — carrots, onions, celery, lentils and diced cooked ham. I used a little extra onion and one more clove of garlic, and I also added a bit more basil and oregano than the recipe called for, plus two bay leaves instead of one.
I did cook the soup on low in my crock pot for the first five hours, but as the lentils still seemed pretty hard and I didn’t want to wait till much past 7:00 to eat, I turned it to high for the last 2-2 1/2 hours. There was still some texture to some of the vegetables and lentils, but I prefer that to a really mushy bite. The overall flavor was good, though we did add a bit more salt and pepper.
The finished product definitely had the nourishing, hearty quality that you want in a soup, with plenty of good broth. I wouldn’t have minded a little bit more ham, however. I’m glad I still have enough left for the next couple of days, which will hopefully hasten my cold to its end!
While my soup blogging adventures are over for now, I will continue to make soup, especially as the colder winter days loom ahead of us here in the Northland.
Stay tuned as I turn my hand to something a bit craftier in December . . .