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Ask The Chef

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Nancy asks, “How do I peel pearl onions easily? The thin papery skins are almost impossible to remove without taking a layer of the onion with them. Is there a trick to doing this? Thank you!”

Yes, there is an easier way. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the onions for a minute, then refresh in ice water. The skins will easily slip off. Blanching, or par-cooking in boiling water, is also a favorite Julia Child technique for bacon. Many of her French recipes, such as beef bourguignon, call for blanching the bacon first in order to remove the smoky taste that could overpower the stew.

Ginny wrote, “I just got a job as cook for a residential community of adults with disabilities. The discussion of roast chicken in an hour, roasted veggies, and save-the-bones for stock let them know that I could do more than open a can of soup!!! Thanks for your coaching from a greatful apprentice.”

Congratulations, Ginny! She took the four-part cooking class, Culinary Skills (next session starts on June 5). No cans are harmed in this cooking class; we learn how to de-bone meats, make stock, roast meats and vegetables, and create sauces. Although we cannot guarantee a professional food job, everyone who takes this class gains confidence with fundamental cooking skills.

Here is a favorite recipe from the Culinary Skills class:

French Onion Soup 

  • 3 pounds onions, sliced on a mandolin 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons flour 
  • ½ cup madeira or dry marsala 
  • 8-10 cups veal stock
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • grated gruyere cheese 
  • sliced and toasted baguette 
  • salt and pepper to taste 
  • Put the onions and oil in a large saute pan, cover, and cook on medium high for 10 minutes. Uncover and brown the onion, about another 30 minutes on medium high heat. Stir occasionally to prevent burning, but the onions should be mahogany in color. Add the flour and cook slightly. Add the marsala. Add the stock and simmer until hot, about 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and seasonings. Ladle the soup into oven-proof bowls and top with crouton and cheese. Broil until browned.


2 Comments for “Ask the Chef: French Onion Soup Recipe”  

  1. deb

    What could you use in place of veal stock? Chicken or vegetable stock? Would it dramatically alter the flavor?

  2. Chef

    Of course, you can make a delicious onion soup with chicken or vegetable stock, but the flavor would be different. Just rename the soup, maybe Deb’s Onion Soup! Traditionally, French onion soup is made with a meat stock for the intense flavor. Veal stock offers a viscosity and flavor that is much deeper than a beef or chicken stock.