February 15th, 2010

Soup, Snow and Strangers

Last Saturday it was a little tough to get to class. It was a day after The Great Snowmaggedon of 2010. We got 12 inches of snow in Dallas, which I learned later is the most snow we’ve had in over a hundred years. It was bewildering and exciting and damned cold. I know you Northerners/Europeans/polar bears chuckle at how a foot of snow renders us Southerners helpless and giddy at the same time, but haters to the left please. We had us a good time.


Anyway, it snowed on Thursday and Friday but by the time Saturday rolled around, the magical white stuff had started to melt a little. I woke up on Saturday full of loathing for myself. I was coming down with a sore throat and the thought of driving 20-something miles through this strange Texan winter wonderland early on a weekend seemed ludicrous. I called myself crazy for embarking on this silly personal project but I finally convinced myself to go, and despite feeling really tired, really cold, and a little sick, I was really happy I did.

There was a guy hanging around on the corner where I was waiting to cross the street to get to class. He didn’t seem in any hurry to get anywhere although he seemed unnaturally happy to be out and about so early on a cold Saturday morning. He saw my houndstooth pants and my knife kit and asked loudly, “You going to culinary school?”

“Er, yes…”

“I was in that industry for years! Food industry, man. Learned all the mother sauces and everything. Great times, great times!”

By this time the light had turned and I had to cross the street. All I could think to say was, “Wow, great!” before walking on. I waved goodbye to him and as I got to the other side, he yelled at me, “Stick with it! You won’t regret it!”

It’s odd but that stranger really helped get me through the day.

It also helped that we were doing soups that day. Five soups, to be exact. Perfect for a cold day.



French onion

Cream of Broccoli

Split Pea (we actually used lentils since there were no peas)

Consomme (no picture because it was a pain in the ass to make so I didn’t have time to snap a pic)

All of these were good but I’ll share my favorite with you: the French Onion Soup. After making this, I was really perplexed as to why this soup in particular has a stigma of being really difficult to make when really it’s not. It takes a while to cook, sure, and it uses up an unreal amount of onions, but other than that it’s not the most complicated thing. Try it out if you are a French Onion Soup fan. It’s pretty excellent.

2 Tbsp butter
1 1/4 lb onions, sliced thin
4 1/2 cups beef stock
salt and pepper
1.5 oz sherry
French bread
Freshly grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese

1. Heat butter in a stockpot over moderate heat. Add onions and cook until golden. Stir occasionally. This will take about 20-30 minutes. Be patient, this is where the flavors build. Keep an eye on it though, you don’t want it to burn.
2. Add stock and bring to a boil. Simmer until onions are tender and flavors have blended, another 20 minutes.
3. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sherry.
4. Keep soup hot until you are just about to serve it.
5. Cut the bread into slices of 3/8 inches, enough to cover the top of a ramekin or small soup bowl.
6. Toast slices in the oven under the broiler.
7. For each portion, fill an individual ramekin with hot soup. Place 1 or 2 slices of the toast on top and cover with cheese. Pass under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned. Serve immediately.

2 Responses to “Soup, Snow and Strangers”

  1. would the consistency of the split pea soup differ with peas? is it the lentils that make it that thick?

  2. I’m not sure, I think lentils might make it thicker, but we also pureed it (with an immersion blender) so it doesn’t look like that straight out of the pot. Mom actually has a really good (and super easy) split pea soup recipe that I prefer over the one we made in class. I don’t know that I would puree it either, or at least puree only half of the soup. The consistency was too much like gruel.