“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
That is one of my favorite quotes about teamwork and the spirit of those words is part of why I love sports so much. We see time and time again that individual stars get paid the big bucks but often it is the team that works together best that has the most success. The same could be said for cooking. While quality ingredients are important, the simplest ingredients can really come together with just some time, effort, technique and a sense of fun.
With that in mind, it has been a rain-filled and cold week on the East Coast so I was in the mood for soup and a sandwich. Here’s the spin I put on a traditional combo for wifey and I to enjoy while cheering on PSU football Saturday night.
Open-faced French Onion Soup Sandwich
First you must recruit. So to assemble your team of ingredients, here is what I went with: 4tbsp clarified butter, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 lb onions sliced lengthwise, 8 oz beef stock, cup of spiced apple wine (I had it on hand from a local winery but feel free to use any white wine you like), c grated apple wood smoked Gruyere,red onion ciabatta bread and parsley.
Stock: I went back and forth on whether to cheat and just use a store-bought stock but decided to make my own — of course making more stock than I would need for the recipe so that I could replenish the supply in my freezer. Feel free to use any stock recipe mix you like but here is what I went with: 2 large beef soup bones, 4 short ribs, 3 celery stalks, 2 onions unpeeled and quartered, 4 carrots and some tomato paste.
In a roasting pan put a little oil on the bones and ribs before roasting them at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. Take it out of the oven and mix in all the other ingredients before popping in for another 35 minutes. Take everything out of the roasting pan so you can deglaze with some wine, then place the meat and veggies in a stock pot before adding the glazing liquid and enough water to cover everything. I cooked this down for almost 4 hours and then let the mixture cool slightly before straining it through a sieve to get my final stock. You can use any of the ingredients for other dishes if you want. I ended up using the carrots for a spicy carrot soup later in the week but from here, you’ll only need the short ribs and stock.
Soup: Toss the butter and oil in the saucepan. (I am guilty of following all sorts of unproven wives’ tales when I cook, but one I cannot stand is the popular myth that the combo of oil and butter raises the smoke point and keeps butter from burning. The milk solids in the butter are actually what makes it so easy to burn and adding oil only spreads out these solids, it doesn’t get rid of them. By using clarified butter, you get rid of them and keep that silky buttery goodness without much danger of burning or ruining the dish.)
Add onions in with the butter/oil on medium heat to brown for 5 minutes or so and then reduce to low, stirring frequently. It is easy to rush this part but you want to give the onions at least 45 minutes to caramelize and reduce. I also tend to use sweet onions quite a bit in cooking, but if you used them here, the overall result is just a little too sweet.
Add stock and wine, bring to a boil before reducing to a low simmer. Remove the beef from the bones and toss in while keeping everything on low until the liquid reduces. You want it to thicken up a bit so that consistency is like the last few ladles of soup in a pot. It took me about 40 minutes.
Sandwich: While this is simmering, toast your bread so that it won’t get soggy when the thick and tasty mix is poured on top. Layer bread, beef, french onion soup mixture and top with grated Gruyere before placing under the broiler until the cheese gets bubbly and golden. Garnish with some rough chopped parsley
This may seem like an awful lot of time and energy to put into a simple sandwich, but it is absolutely worth it! All the ingredients are inexpensive and simple but the time and effort to coach them up really shines through when you take the first bite.
As for what to wash this dish down with? I have been recommending some of my favorite beers but with the bottle of spiced apple wine already opened, I thought of a drink I had in Germany a few years back. I had to look up what it was called but, Süssgespritzer is a 50/50 mix of tonic water and apple wine with a squeeze of lemon. Definitely a good fit for the meal and for this weather. As always, enjoy the games!