I recently had the pleasure of stepping back into a high volume fine dining kitchen to cook a dinner service. Going into the evening I was a little nervous since the chef had told me that we had over two hundred diners on the books. I can tell you that working in a high-volume professional kitchen you will get burned and you will push yourself to the absolute limits of your physical and mental ability.
Most commercial kitchens or “lines” are broken down into “stations” each being responsible for certain items or dishes. Tonight I was working the middle, or the “wheel.” I was responsible for three complete dishes, the plate up and timing of the other two cooks on the hotline, sauté and broiler. I definitely had my work cut out for me. The tickets started pouring in. I call the first ten that printed out, grouping things together for each cook so they could focus on cooking. Also making sure I staggered the calls so the dishes would come up together. Eventually we got into a zone and I was able to steer the ship in the right direction. It went on and on for what seemed like forever relentlessly pushing us with larger and larger quantities of each menu item in each wave. I remember wondering if we would run out of anything since I had not been there to set things up. I also remember thinking “at least we don’t have French onion soup on the menu.”
You see although I love French onion soup I most certainly dread having to push out two hundred of them in a short amount of time. Balancing that screaming hot soup bowl back and fourth from the broiler to the line is quite nerve racking to say the least. I am glad I didn’t have French onion on the menu that night. That being said I really do love it! Gooey cheese pushing through the deep and complex flavors and textures below. Well that just makes me want to have some right now. So I present to you my take on French onion soup. Bon Appétit!
French Onion Soup
2½ lbs medium Spanish onions peeled and sliced
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter (you can substitute oil if desired)
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup dry sherry
4-5 tablespoons brandy
6 cups beef broth
1 baguette sliced ½ inch thick on a bias (should be the slightly shorter than the width of your bowl)
1/2-lb piece Gruyère sliced ¼ inch thick
1 bunch chives sliced very thinly
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, cook onions, thyme, bay leaves, and salt in butter uncovered, stirring frequently until onions are caramelized and a deep golden brown color. Stir in flour and cook for about 1 minute stirring constantly. Add sherry and brandy cook an additional 2 minutes Stir in broth and black pepper bring to a simmer and cook uncovered stirring occasionally.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
On a large baking sheet arrange the sliced baguette in a single layer. Toast, turning over once, until completely dry this should take 10-15 minutes. Allow bread to cool and set aside.
Put crocks or bowls into a shallow baking pan. Fill the desired amount of crocks/bowls with the soup leaving out the thyme and bay leaves, and leaving a little room to float the crostini. After you have placed the crostini carefully on top of the soup cover the entire top of the crock/bowl with the slices Gruyère. Broil until cheese is melted and bubbly about 2 minutes. Remove carefully from the oven garnish with chives and serve immediately.
As we all know, the fall and winter months are prime soup months and we decided to showcase some great fall and winter food events coming up over the next couple months around the country. If any of these are in your neighborhood, be sure to check them out and enjoy the fine cuisine and beverages that come with the chilly winter months.
Saturday November 10th:
Exploring Apples from the Soil Up; Discovering the Origins of the Thanksgiving Feast; Nature Walk & Making Art From Nature’s Resources – Boiling Springs, PA
Monday November 12th:
A Humble Feast – seattle, WA
Saturday November 17th:
20something – The New Vintage – Seattle, WA
Thursday November 29th:
Cypress Wine Bar presents Flavors of Fall Wine Dinner with DeLille Cellars – Bellevue, WA
Thursday December 6th:
Ivar’s Northwest Winter Beer Tasting – Seattle, WA
Friday December 7th:
2012 Winter Beer Festival – Seattle, WA