Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gluten-Free French Onion Soup

All Soups are Suspect

When trying to eat exclusively gluten-free, all soups become suspect.

Many don't need any gluten, but when ordering at a restaurant, you can never be sure what they have done to their soups.

French Onion Soup is tricky. It doesn't seem like it should contain any gluten, except for the obvious bread floated on top. But, in fact, many recipes do include some flour to thicken the soup.

This is done all the time to soups. I don't trust any soups anymore, unless they come with a complete and explicit label or I make it myself.

And I really believe that anything with a "complete and explicit label" will never be as good as something I make myself. Flavor is lost in the processing. And all that time needed to do the labeling? Freshness is long gone by the time a label is attached.

In the case of French Onion Soup, that pesky toast/baugette/bread ruins my chances of ever ordering French Onion Soup at a restaurant. Sure, I could try ordering it without the bread (risky risky risky --- and I don't like taking risks in restaurants), but without bread to float, I can't have the toasted gruyere cheese on top! The toasted gruyere really is the key to the deliciousness of this soup.

I just have to make it myself. And it is so worth it. No can of gluten-free soup can compare to the flavor of home-cooked gluten-free soup. (This is probably true of glutenated soups too, but that's not what this blog is about.)

Gluten-Free French Onion Soup

I don't actually know what a standard version of French Onion Soup might be, but this is probably something close, with the only exception being the red wine. I don't know if all French Onion Soup is made with red wine, but I like the depth of flavor it gives.

Fear not. The alcohol is cooked off long before the soup reaches the table. It just so happens that I was standing over the stove inhaling all of that alcohol as it was evaporating. But the kids weren't in the room. This makes me wonder: Does inhaling alcohol affect the body the same way as drinking it does?

Oh right. I was also drinking a glass of it while cooking. Never mind.

1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, chopped

I started by melting the butter in a large soup pan and added the onions.

Then I added the chopped or minced garlic. Depending on whether you like your garlic chopped or minced. Here it is up close.

1 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper

I guessed at the salt and pepper, but trod lightly, since I really wanted to adjust the seasoning at the end of the cooking process.

I cooked this until the onions were gloriously carmelized. Gloriously. This takes about 30 minutes. Watch it at the end so they don't burn.

They smell so incredibly good at this point.

Now for the red wine. Don't be like me and use a not-so-cheap bottle. It was all I had on hand. Any inexpensive, dry red wine will do.

1 cup red wine

And add it to the pot. If you do use a good red wine, feel free to pour yourself a glass at this point. I did.

See the difference in the color? That's flavor, not just color! Now bring this to a boil, stirring, and then reduce the heat and simmer until all the wine has boiled off. This took about 10 or 15 minutes.

In the mean time, shred the cheese for topping the bread. Gruyere seems to be pretty traditional here, but plain old Swiss cheese or Jarlesberg work fine too.

I had my husband buy gruyere specifically for this, just so we could do a side-by-side taste test with the Jarlesberg we already had. The verdict, they are very similar, but the gruyere had a smoother, subtler taste. Both are good.

While you've been shredding your cheese, your wine has cooked off (or you've drunk some from your glass, or both). Now it is time to thicken the soup.

4 Tbsp sweet rice flour
2 quarts gluten-free beef broth

I chose sweet rice flour, but you can also use potato flour or tapioca starch or even corn starch. Tapioca tends to leave a gooier texture in soups, so I don't usually use it for them or sauces.

I've discovered that making a roux doesn't work as well with gluten-free flours. I now avoid them whenever possible. Instead, I prefer to add some cold liquid to the gluten-free flour and stir it well to remove clumps before adding to the larger pot. It just ends up too clumpy otherwise. So I stirred some of those two quarts of beef broth into the sweet rice flour before adding them to my soup pot.

Please be careful when purchasing broths and stocks. I have found many that contain gluten. This one does not. Three cheers for Trader Joe's!

After adding the sweet rice flour and broth slurry to the pot, cook and stir over medium heat for about 10 minutes to cook the flour.

It loses some of that white color and the flour taste. Then you are ready to add the remainder of the beef broth. Bring it to a simmer, cook for 10 minutes more, and finish by adjusting the salt and pepper.

Now for the finishing touch....

Udi's Gluten-Free Bagels

Here's the key to making French Onion Soup:  a gluten-free bread with toasted gruyere floated on top of the soup!

I chose Udi's Gluten-Free Bagels, since I had them on hand. Udi's Gluten-Free Hamburger Buns would have worked too. Or any other gluten-free bread with some substantial crust to keep it together in the soup.

Sprinkle your choice of bread with the shredded gruyere and put it under the broiler for a few minutes.

Watch them! You want the cheese melted and just a bit brown, but not burned. Then pull them out.

Serve the soup and float your toasted cheese bagel on top.

This is a dinner our entire family loves! Well, everyone except NoSoup Boy. He hasn't found a soup yet that he likes. And I've forced plenty of them on him. I've tried giving him just the broth. Just the bits. Bits and broth together. Creamy soups. Tomato-y soups. Broth soups. Meaty soups. Vegetable soups. Pasta soups. Smooth soups. Chunky soups. No joy. He even likes cooked onions. He just does not like soup.

But the rest of the family... well, they get their gluten toast of choice for toasting and floating, and I can safely have my gluten-free toasted bagel. Fabulous and safe French Onion Soup for everyone!

Even for NoSoup Boy, if he would just try it.

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