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Soupe a l'Oignon Gratinee

Sounds fancy huh? Don't tell anyone but it's really just soup with bread in it. But it is so much better than regular onion soup.  I've been making this since it first appeared in the NY Times in 2007 It is one of those warming, rib-sticking, comfort foods. What I really like about it is that you can do a lot of the prep ahead of time. I've made it for Easter Brunch a few times.  You can toast the baguette ahead of time and also make the caramelized onions ahead of time too. Grate the cheese and then you have most of the work done.

Toast the bread under the broiler

A lot of tears were created here-those onions were strong!
Place the onions in a skillet. I think I used the wrong one this time.  I don't think I usually use Griselda* (my cast iron pan) because for a long while the onions just steamed instead of caramelizing. I think she was a tad too small.

Eventually they got there.  I added about a tablespoon of sugar to help the caramelization along.

I didn't have tomato puree. I only had whole tomatoes - so I just buzzed them in the food processor.  I also used muenster cheese this time because that's what I had on hand.  Fontina or Gruyere would do nicely too.

Cheese Cave in Gruyere, Switzerland
This was a really cool factory tour (only second to the Callier chocolate factory tour on the same trip). I'm such a sucker for a factory tour. This was the "cheese cave" where the Gruyere was aging. They gave us samples of the cheese at different ages.  The taste differences were amazing. I definitely like the longer aged version. This machine came around and watered and spun the cheese around everyday. It was really cool. You can see it making it's way down the aisle. Sorry took a little detour but that is what I think of every time I hear Gruyere.

This is with one layer done and beginning the second layer
Boiling water just added
After the 1/2 hour stove top cook - ready for the oven
All done-it really puffs up nicely

 *Griselda is a Griswold cast iron pan.  Griswold was a cast iron company in Erie, Pennsylvania.  Griselda belonged to my grandmother.  I had it for a long time and she was just sitting down the basement (the pan not my grandmother). Not a good thing for a cast iron pan (or for a grandmother for that matter).  She wasn't in the best of shape. About 10 years ago, I learned that cast iron is a fabulous surface to cook on and decided to see what I could do for her.  She just needed a little cleaning up and then a re-seasoning. You can scrape out the gunk by rubbing a little kosher salt in the pan.  If it's real rusty, you can even use a wire brush. Then rub in a bunch of canola oil in and bake it about at 300 for about 1 hour.


Periodically you need to just rub a little oil in.  

In need of a little oil
I usually just put a little oil in the pan and use a paper towel to spread it around.
NEVER use soap to clean cast iron. If anything is stuck to the bottom, just put a little water in the pan and put it on a medium-high heat.  You can scrape loose anything that is burnt on. Also make sure it is really dry before storing.  I usually (or the Sous Chef since he is generally in charge of clean up) just put it on the burner for a few seconds to heat it up and that will dry it off well.

Cast iron heats so evenly and really is pretty much a non-stick surface.  You use way less oil when cooking.  It's better than using those other non-stick surfaces that always seem to become stick surfaces.  I always wondered where that non-stick layer went to - probably into my food.  Now all I'm getting is a little extra iron.


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