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Earth to Table French Onion Soup

EarthToTable French Onion Soup I didn’t take this picture. I wish I did. But I didn’t.

This is just a taste of the mouthwatering photos that illustrate Earth to Table: Seasonal Recipes from an Organic Farm. While eating local is a hot topic these days, this book is not a marketing ploy riding public enthusiasm for the 100-mile diet. For more than two years,  Jeff Crump, the founder of Slow Food Ontario, and Bettina Schormann, another card-carrying Slow Food advocate, wrote, tested recipes, toured farms, interviewed chefs and created a book that honoured food every step of the way — from earth to table.

When I first met Jeff a couple of years ago, he had just landed the book deal. When I saw him last year at the Canadian Culinary Book Awards he showed me the galleys. The cover featured a beautiful bunch of carrots just pulled from the ground. This year? The book has finally hit the shelves.

Although the carrots are gone, the book has not one but two gorgeous covers. One for Canada and one for the US.

Earth-To-Table-2-covers

Like most books based on local cuisine, Earth to Table divides its chapters into Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. But this is more than just a collection of seasonal recipes. Schormann, a pastry chef, includes a wheat story for each section. Informative seasonal How-Tos include foraging, canning, going to a Farmers’ Market and planning an herb garden. While the book shines a spotlight on high-end chefs like Heston Blumenthal, the authors remain firmly grounded with practical information about making compost, buying seafood, innovations in the small dairy industry and the ethical challenges of eating meat.

Despite their passion for local foods, they authors bravely list 10 Things Worth the Food Miles. They confess they can’t live without: fair-trade coffee, vanilla, olives and olive oil, rice, white truffles, buffalo mozzarella, citrus fruits (lemons and limes), chocolate, spot prawns, and soft shell crabs.

If I put you on a Food Mileage Budget, where would you spend your carbon credits?

While you think on that, here’s a recipe from Earth to Table. I never order French onion soup in a restaurant because it’s usually too salty, but homemade stock makes all the difference. No wonder this dish became a classic.

The opening photo is from the book. This is what emerged from my humble kitchen. Not bad, but I think I need some sexy stoneware and nicer cutlery.

French-Onion-Soup

French Onion Soup

By Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann, authors of Earth to Table

At the restaurant we have the luxury of being able to make our soups with wonderfully thick, rich stocks. This may be difficult to achieve at home so we suggest the addition of a little flour to help with the thickening process. If there is one item our regular guests will never let us take off the menu, this is it. The recipe can easily be halved for a smaller party.

Serves 8

  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 lbs medium yellow onions (about 5), thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups local dry red wine
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups cubed baguette, toasted
  • 41⁄2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese (about 1 lb)
  • 2 tsp minced fresh thyme

  1. In a large, heavy pot, heat butter and oil over medium-low heat. Add onions, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and translucent, about 20 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add sugar and salt; sauté, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot, until onions are softened and a deep, rich brown, about 15 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to medium, sprinkle with flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in 2 cups of the stock, then add the remaining stock and wine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary.
  3. Preheat oven to 425ºF. Divide baguette cubes among 8 individual ovenproof bowls. Fill bowls with onion soup and sprinkle each with a thick layer of cheese. Set bowls on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until cheese is browned, about 8 minutes. Garnish with thyme.

Excerpted from Earth to Table by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann Copyright © 2009 by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann. Photographs Copyright © 2009 by Edward Pond. Excerpted by permission of Random House Canada, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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0 Responses to Earth to Table French Onion Soup

  1. Barb November 12, 2009 at 11:05 am #

    Onion soup for me tonight…this is gorgeous.

    b

    • Charmian Christie November 12, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

      Thanks Barb. The photographer, Edward Pond, did a stellar job. The colours are so vivid. He also managed to bring in enough artistry to make your mouth water without making the food look intimidating or high brow.

  2. Cheryl Arkison November 12, 2009 at 11:05 am #

    Mmmm, I’ve been craving some Onion soup lately…

    You only touched on the link to carbon and food. My desk job is working on climate change issues and even within our own organization I’m amazed at how many people don’t even think of this.

    • Charmian Christie November 12, 2009 at 2:20 pm #

      People still don’t think of this? Really? I guess as a food writer the topic’s now second nature. Thanks for the reality check.

      Perhaps between your desk job, my blog, this book (and many other worthy titles) and other outlets we’ll manage to get local food on everyone’s radar (in a nice way, cause I’m not sure you’d want to know me if I had to give up coconut milk, coffee, vanilla or lemons!)

  3. Jill U Adams November 12, 2009 at 11:26 am #

    Charmian,

    You’ve got me lusting after yet another cookbook. I’ve been on a splurge recently — but there’s always Christmas presents to myself.

    I take on the 100-mile diet fairly strictly during the month of September. My exceptions are similar to those above — oil & vinegar (usually Italian), coffee & chocolate, spices, and yes, flour (even though I live in what used to be the breadbasket of the US).

    The things I want the most come October is French wine (I stick to NY wine — from slightly beyond my 100-radius — in Sept), peanut butter, and bananas.

    • Charmian Christie November 12, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

      Bananas and peanut butter! Never thought of those. Bananas are a staple in most households, as is PB. We grow peanuts here in Ontario — and they’re amazingly good. No peanuts from NY?

      I admit to drinking non-local wine occasionally. Fortunately, I can get good wine from the Niagara Region (130 km away or 80 miles). Just under the wire!

  4. Cheryl November 12, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    I’m with Barb. It’s absolutely beautiful, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I had onion soup. Did you make your own beef stock? If so, may I humbly request that you provide a link and/or recipe in a future post? (pretty please?)

    • Charmian Christie November 12, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

      I made my own beef stock for this. I tried with tinned and it wasn’t the same.

      Your wish is my command and I’ll have a post on beef stock for you next week.

  5. Debbie November 12, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    Thanks for this Charmian. I love French Onion Soup. I’ve been craving it lately, (probably ’cause of the commercials for Tim Horton’s French Onion soup.) Has anyone tried it yet? I’m sure it’s horrid. I think I will try making this one though. It sounds wonderful!

    • Charmian Christie November 12, 2009 at 2:32 pm #

      I saw the commericials, too. And the ones for the “real” lattes. Haven’t tried either. In general, I find Tim’s soup too salty — but I under-salt things. And the cheese? I don’t think their price bracket would allow them to use real Gruyere. I might try their latte the next time Andrew and I face the 4-hour, 401 drive to Kingston.

      If you try this, I’d like to know what you think. It takes a bit of time to make but the house smells so good while the onions are caramelizing.

  6. Amy Proulx November 12, 2009 at 5:09 pm #

    Yum yum, I’ve been having the same thoughts, even without having seen the Tim’s ads. Hot onion soup. I had a beer and onion soup recipe in mind from my new favorite book (you know who!), but this one looks equally scrumptious. Who would turn down soup with a pound of gruyere toasted on top?

    But my real question – why two different covers?

    • Charmian Christie November 13, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

      Amy, we’ll have to do a taste test some day. Although I didn’t use as much cheese as suggested for dietary reasons.

      Not sure why the different covers. I’d like to think they just couldn’t decide which they liked best, but there’s probably a less artsy-fartsy reason.

  7. Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart November 12, 2009 at 8:37 pm #

    I love that they included a list of things that are worth it. That’s my kind of thinking.

    • Charmian Christie November 13, 2009 at 12:57 pm #

      I agree. They take a very balanced approach, which in the long run is going to win more people over.

  8. Dana McCauley November 12, 2009 at 10:17 pm #

    Fantastic looking soup – I’ve actually got a French onion soup post planned for next week – must be something in the air!

    Great book – good choice for a blog post!

    • Charmian Christie November 13, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

      Definitely something in the air. Must be the nip of frost.

      Or we can do with the old, “Great minds think alike…”

  9. Kerry December 1, 2009 at 8:15 am #

    things I’d put on my worth it list: tea [and as long as we’re going for it Barry’s Tea from Ireland, but I’ll take Tetley and cranberries. apples,too, and chocolate.

    • Charmian Christie December 1, 2009 at 12:56 pm #

      Tea! Good call. And do you really need to put chocolate on the list? Isn’t that a given.

      Interesting you mention apples. We grow apples here so it never occurs to me that people in other regions need to import them.

  10. Watch Anime Online December 4, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Holy crap! that looks insanely delicious! I would never of thought Onions could look that scrumptious lol.

    • Charmian Christie December 7, 2009 at 8:22 am #

      Onion soup does sound a bit odd, but leave it to the French to turn an aromatic into a classic dish. If you do try the recipe, let me know if the dish lives up to your expectations.

  11. Jessica Harlin October 14, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    I own this book and am absolutely obsessed with it! Every recipe I have made has been phenomenal (including the french onion soup!), the bread recipes are simple, rustic and delicious…wonderful!

  12. Pam February 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    where is the stock recipe?

    • Charmian Christie February 12, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

      I had permission to publish the soup recipe, not the stock recipe. If you want to learn how make your own stock, scroll to the bottom of this post to the Rouxbe Cooking School widget. I have moved their “Making Veal and Beef Stock” video to the top of the scroll so you can watch it.

      Store bought stock would work, too, but making your own is quite easy and the results are wonderful.

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