The year was 2007. Spring to be exact; the week after Easter. I had just spent a week in Prague entertaining my very first time in Europe. I had been enchanted by everything about the city. The people were friendly, interesting and fun loving. Czechs smile a lot. My week in Prague had been the best seven days of my life and now boarding the plane to Paris was sort of bittersweet. I had my best friend by my side. Everyone was eager to enter the famous city of Paris. And who wouldn’t be? I felt ungrateful feeling a twinge of remorse as I said goodbye to my now favorite place in the world. My family is from France on both sides. I should feel happy that I am going to see the place where my family originated. Paris lived in my blood after all. We got into town very late. It was about 9:00 at night when we landed, 10:00 by the time we got to the hotel, another hour to get settled in our rooms. It was midnight by the time we got unpacked and we were starving, my roommate and best friend Ashley and I. Some of the girls in our group ventured out into the night to take advantage of Paris nightlife. Ashley and I decided to camp out in our hotel and watch South Park in German. But what to do about our hunger? That last thing I had eaten was a small packet of mixed nuts that the flight attendant had given me to help me choke down my Benadryl to put me to sleep on the ride over. We were rummaging through our hotel, noticing the snacks in the mini-fridge and then cringing at our $40 snack bill back in Prague. We couldn’t do that. We found a menu next to the door and through some very remedial French-speaking skills we realized that the room service was 24 hours. No way.
The first thing I did was order a piping hot bowl of French Onion Soup. Because that’s the dream right? No more Campbell’s canned wannabe French Onion Soup! This is the REAL deal made by REAL French chefs. The cute little French man in his waistcoat, dark slicked back hair and tiny moustache showed up at our door with a tray of beautiful, dark broth French Onion Soup. I tried to thank him in French but since I was quite shy I simply squeaked and handed him 2 Euro coins. With my American eyes the small portion of the French Onion Soup looked like it wouldn’t be enough. It came in a small white ramekin with a beautiful glazed over layer of melted cheese. I do not recall having ever had French Onion Soup before that time and the experience was absolutely lovely. You used your spoon to bust open the layer of cheese and underneath there was a crispy crouton of real French bread. Probably bought from la boulangerie that morning. And underneath that was a rich, dark brown, flavorful broth laced with tender onions. It was a little cup of heaven.
In that cup I found Paris. It was like Paris was welcoming me in that one little cup of soup. It was the warmest welcome I had ever felt. It opened up my mind to the adventures that I would have in the next week and it warmed my soul and lulled me into a restful sleep. Now four years later I live in a small apartment in the middle of a college town, working my poor little mind to death trying to join the professional force. Often times I sit back and think of the two weeks I spent in Europe and get lost in my memories. It was the only time in my life that I have ever checked out from life. When you go to a different country you sort of experience this magical sensation of being…a different person. Being out of the country transports you away from your life at home and lets you experience life…tabula rasa…as a blank slate. Many times as I punch away monotonously at my keyboard, or make a ho-hum grilled cheese for lunch or pretend to listen in class, I yearn for something to bring me back to that life-altering time. Rarely there is anything that can compare to the experiences that I had there, but I have found a little piece of joy in a recipe from a little website created by Elise Bauer. It’s called simplyrecipes.com.
I was scouring the Internet for a good French Onion Soup recipe after being inspired by the almighty Pinterest. I came across Elise’s recipe via Google and at first I was completely skeptical. Elise uses no butter in her recipe and so I was wondering if that would alter the flavor any? Wouldn’t that make it…not as rich? The answer is no. Elise cooks her onions in olive oil, which makes this soup healthier. And the flavor is absolutely beautiful. I did nothing different. I copied her recipe verbatim taking the chicken stock route instead of the beef broth. Traditionally beef broth is used in this soup but all I had was chicken stock on hand. It still came out lovely. Here is the link to her recipe: http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/french_onion_soup/
I will not take the task of copying her recipe into my blog because I made no edits. The only things I did do differently was I used fresh thyme because that’s what I had in the refrigerator, I did not shred my Gruyere cheese, I left it sliced on top of the crouton, and I actually used cooking sherry instead of wine because well…because I am a poor college student. In case you do not know, I just stuck the sliced French bread under the broiler for a few minutes and that will crisp it up. The Gruyere cheese I found to be very expensive but BOY was it worth it. It is such a crisp, rich, buttery cheese. It works SO well with Elise’s soup. DON’T SKIP IT! This soup really brought me back to that first night in Paris and added a little bit of enchantment to my otherwise dull life. I hope that you will enjoy it as well. It is completely worth the labor and cheese expenses.
Have yourself a little night in Paris!
Eat, Pray, Love,
The Hungry Hungry Health Nut